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Mark Renner

Few Traces

    Few Traces surveys a near decade of Mark Renner’s scarcely released and unreleased material from 1982 to 1990, embracing and evoking the timelessness of his artistic statement: a wordless translation of the individual’s musical experience, met with the poetic expression of being here.

    Mark Renner first encountered punk while a teenager in Upperco, a country town in rural Maryland. Growing up on his family farm, he became a young acolyte of the British exports hitting not-so-distant Baltimore record store shelves in 1979 / 1980 and was baited by an area musician-wanted ad declaring Ultravox a primary touchstone.

    This nascent band and a pair of other group experiments flamed out under the typical totem of despotism. In their ashes Renner began recording independently around 1983 with a portable four-track, electric guitar, and classic Casio CZ101 synthesizer. Aside from John Foxx-era Ultravox, Renner’s process was inspired by the period’s electronic pioneers venturing into deeper, romantic pop pastures: Yellow Magic Orchestra, Bill Nelson, The Associates.

    With his tools and teachers in place, the blueprints for Renner’s sound were laid out – metronomic, skeletal rhythms built on sturdy yet singular drum machines supporting luminescent guitar and synth lines, Renner’s reverent voice guiding the fables and construction.

    Most directly influential, Renner’s enthusiasm for Days in Europa, the third album by Scottish new wave band Skids, would lead to a correspondence and long-distance tutorship with Stuart Adamson. Before Adamson would achieve worldwide success co-founding the group Big Country, a chance friendship with Renner would impart great confidence in the young musician from Maryland, who, after a visit in Edinburgh, would then travel to London to demo an early version of “Half A Heart” featured in its final form on Few Traces.

    The sum of Renner’s music is one-part literary, one-part painterly. The artist cites the individualism of Herman Hesse as a guiding force, and there are overt references to W. B. Yeats and John Greanleaf Whittier among other authors. Lyrical themes evoke the presence of the ancient past, much like early Felt songs or the spiritual visions of Van Morrison. (Tellingly, Renner cites Morrison’s 1980s albums made between Inarticulate Speech of the Heart and No Guru, No Method, No Teacher as musical influences.)

    Apart from his writing, Renner explored music as a complement to visual language: many of the dream-like instrumental passages presented across Few Traces were originally implemented as sound elements for exhibitions of his paintings. Renner pursued wordless music as a pure aesthetic in its own right, pristinely balanced segues and open-ended compositions that lead to pasture but not without shepherd.

    Compiled three decades after the music was originally put to tape, Few Traces collects Mark Renner’s early music but strives not to simplify or reframe it. (Mark is still active making music and painting) The instrumental explorations remain on par with the great ambient adventurers of the period (Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Roedelius), while the vocal and guitar-centric songs crystalize across similar terrains being transversed by Cocteau Twins and The Chills.

    Few Traces highlights in intuitive sequence gems from Renner’s scarce discography and archive: the self-released debut All Walks of This Life (1986), the aptly titled follow-up Painter’s Joy (1988), plus early singles, compilation tracks, and exemplary songs that saw no original release. The collection allows an intimate look at an artist growing into their sound and surroundings, finding the in between echoes and spirituality of the individual.

    Wewantsounds release Hiroshi Sato's ultra rare synth masterpiece, "Orient", originally released in 1979 on Kitty Records in Japan only. Digitally remastered from the original tapes it features the cream of Japanese musicians including Shigeru Suzuki on guitar, Haruomi Hosono on bass, Pecker on percussion and Sato himself on keyboards and synthesizers. This highly sought-after album is a superb breezy mix of Japanese synth-pop with a subtle touch of mid 70s Herbie Hancock-style funk and AOR. It's what gets our resident Horse Beacher Ryan PLUS our Balearic connosair Patch really rocking (surely reason enough for you to own a copy...!)

    Recorded during a fruitful period in Japan, when Sato, Hosono and Suzuki were fresh from playing in the group Tin Pan Alley and Haruomi Hosono had just formed YMO; the album is a unique balance of various styles. It has become one of the most sought-after Japanese LPs on the global Balearic scene and is now exchanging hands for astronomical prices. The album also features on Gilles Peterson’s 'Significant Album List'. Fully remastered from the original Kitty Records tapes by Universal Japan, the album will come with its original 4-page colour insert including English translations of the original liner notes by leading Japanese journalist Yasufumi Amatatsu plus the full track-by-track musician line up. The album includes such cult tracks as “Son Go Kuw” and “Do-Jo” - hugely popular on the international DJ scene.



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