Mark Renner – “Saints and Sinners”


On Febuary 16, 2018, RVNG Intl. digitally released Few Traces, a recording of rarities by Mark Renner. The physical release is this Friday (February 23rd).

Renner is an under-heralded icon of the Baltimore arts scene. A talented painter, printmaker, and musician, Renner’s work proved pivotal in the local community during the first early glimmers of post New Wave alternative rock.

Few Traces contains music from 1982-90. Built with a minimum of gear – a four-track recorder, guitar, and a Casio synthesizer – its songs and instrumentals are simply constructed but eloquent, tuneful, and charming in their immediacy. One can imagine college radio in an alternate universe spinning Renner’s “Saints and Sages,” “Half a Heart,” and “The Wild House” in heavy rotation. Given the resurgence of eighties synth pop, perhaps their time has come.

To garner some context for Renner’s work, Maia Stern has released a short documentary (embedded below). You can also check out streams of some of my favorites on the recording and there is a link below to purchase it via Bandcamp, as well as some information about charitable contributions that are being made from the release’s proceeds. Recommended highly.


“On behalf of Mark Renner, a portion of the proceeds from Few Traces sales will be donated to Ethiopia ACT, an organization committed to public health strategies to serve Addis Ababa’s community, under Come! Mend!, an initiative bridging RVNG’s work and interest supporting non-profit organizations and charities.”

Best Rock Recording 2017: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Luciferian Towers

Luciferian Towers - GSYBE

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Luciferian Towers

Constellation CD/LP/DL


Canadian instrumental post-rock leftist collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor brings something old and something new to the musical anti-fascist fray on Luciferian Towers, their latest recording for Constellation. They are still angry at the political establishment (as are many of us). But they are REALLY angry. Composition titles such as “Bosses Hang,” “Fam/Famine,” and “Anthem for No State,” are bracing sentiments, ones that seem all the more resonant with the determined opposition movements that on the political left the have been emboldened in the wake the double punch of the 2016 election and Charlottesville.


Early GSY!BE output relied on, indeed did a great deal to codify, a certain formula for post-rock: pieces contained one long hairpin crescendo from pianissimo to fortississimo primarily focused on drone-based textures. A penchant for minimalism and martial rhythms remain, but the group’s approach is more texturally varied. True, this time out there aren’t field recordings, but album opener “Undoing a Luciferian Towers” (sic) does include free jazz horns. Bagpipes adorn the album’s closer. Throughout, guitars oscillate and repeat riffs with little wrinkles of variation. Most significantly, dynamics are varied rather than inexorably inclined, with piano sections lingering, forte sections juxtaposed with softer passages, and some of the music cannonading through without significant shading. These changes of shaping and form demonstrate the band’s significant musical development over time. Moreover, Luciferian Towers is a yawp of resistance at just the time that we need its cathartic power. Godspeed You! Black Emperor has created a record precisely for its time, and the Best Rock Recording of 2017.


Saturday: Record Store Day

Saturday: Record Store Day Celebrates Tenth Anniversary


April 22, 2017 is the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, a celebration of brick-and-mortar record sellers. After a strong start and a bevy of good press for the venture, there has been some pushback of late. A lot of the debate over the past couple of years has centered around the efficacy of RSD for sellers. There are always the hot items that are grabbed up by opportunists to be flipped on eBay for exaggerated sums. However, of late there have also been reissues poured into the market by big labels who have not traditionally been supportive of nor representative of the fare that has made independent stores distinctive. Some of these releases seem to languish in seeming perpetuity. Perhaps in response to these issues, this year RSD has trimmed their list of “Exclusive” releases and acknowledged that some will continue in the bins for a while, and be resupplied, with the “Record Store Day First” category. Also, plastered all over the RSD site is the slogan,”Support stores, not flippers.”


My wife and I have “done” Record Store Day in some fashion or another every year since its inception. Even last year, when I had my surgeries and couldn’t go, Kay took a wish list to favorite record haunts on my behalf. We have chosen to ignore the ugly side of it – the grabby people, the line-cutters, and the crass commercialism that has creeped into what used to seem more genuinely about celebrating the love of records and record stores instead of exploiting both. We look at instead in a spirit of fun, as our own scavenger hunt for releases we will enjoy throughout the next year and beyond. So enjoy Record Store Day. Happy hunting and Caveat Emptor.


A few noteworthy Record Store releases:

Tompkins Square is reissuing Key, Meredith Monk’s 1971 debut LP. It features her early works for voice, composed from 1967-’70.

Dust-to-Digital is releasing a 45 of two of the label’s favorite Cambodian singers: Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea.

Nonesuch is reissuing recordings by Emmy Lou Harris, Randy Newman (his first five studio releases) and, the double LP I’m hoping to find, a compilation of selections by Allen Toussaint.


Christian’s Record Store Day “Wish List”


Animal Collective: Meeting of the Waters (12”)

Blitzen Trapper: Unreleased Recordings Series (12”)

Drive-By Truckers: Electric Lady Sessions (12”)

Bill Evans: Hillsun – Another Time (12”)

Follakzoi featuring J. Spaceman: London Sessions (12”)

Dexter Gordon: Walk the Blues (12”)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Welcome to 1979 (12”)

Madrigal: S/T (12”)

Meredith Monk: Key (12”)

Thelonious Monk: Les Liasons Dangereuse 1960 (12”)

Lou Reed: Perfect Night – Live in London (Double 12”)

Sun Ra: Discipline 27-11 (12”)

Sun Ra: Janus (12”)

The Allen Toussaint Collection (2×12”)

Vangelis: Blade Runner Soundtrack (12” picture disc)

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Delta Blues (12”)

Yes: 90215 (12” picture disc)


Bonnie Prince Billy: Beargrass Song (7”)

Nels Cline: In the Wee Small Hours (7”)

Iron and Wine: Archive Series Vol. 3 (7”)

Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea (7”)


Arca – “Saunter” (SoundCloud)


Arca’s S/T third LP, was released this past week on XL. Reincorporating more vocals this time out, he combines the song-based compositions of his earlier work with his more recent electronica experiments. Below is an embed of album track “Saunter;” it’s also available on a 12″ vinyl EP from the label.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: “CKCMP (SILICON Rework)”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Check out this “rework” (not remix, mind you) by SILICON of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s song “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.” It is off of a 7″ coming out on 4/1 via Jagjaguwar. The band is launching an extensive tour (dates below).

Jan. 28 – Vancouver, BC @ The Rickshaw Theatre * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Jan. 29 – Seattle, WA @ Neptune * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Jan. 30 – Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 1 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 2 – Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory * [tickets]
Feb. 3 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre * [tickets] – SOLD OUT
Feb. 5 – El Paso, TX @ Lowbrow Palace * [tickets]
Feb. 6 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger * [tickets]
Feb. 7 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s * [tickets]
Feb. 8 – Houston, TX @ Numbers * [tickets]
Feb. 9 – Dallas, TX @ Trees * [tickets]
Feb. 11 – New Orleans, LA @ Republic New Orleans * [tickets]
Feb. 12 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn * [tickets]
Feb. 13 – Nashville, TN @ Exit In * [tickets]
Feb. 14 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel* [tickets]
Feb. 16 – Richmond, VA @ The National * [tickets]
Feb. 17 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club * [tickets]
Feb. 18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer * [tickets]
Feb. 19 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza * [tickets]
Feb. 20 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza * [tickets]
Apr. 13 – Visalia, CA @ The Cellar Door & [tickets]
Apr. 14 – Santa Barbara, CA @ SOhO Music Club & [tickets]
Apr. 16 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival [tickets]
Apr. 21 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern [tickets]
Apr. 23 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival [tickets]
Apr. 28 – Sao Paulo, BR @ Beco 203 [tickets]
Apr. 29 – Buenos Aires, AR @ Niceto Club [tickets]
Apr. 30 – Santiago, CL @ Sala Omnium
May 7 – Fort Collins, CO @ Aggie Theatre # [tickets]
May 8 – Lincoln, NE @ Vega [tickets] #
May 9 – Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s # [tickets]
May 10 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall [tickets] #
May 12 – Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck # [tickets]
May 13 – Memphis, TN @ 1884 [tickets] #
May 15 – Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees Festival [tickets]
May 17 – Columbus, OH @ Skullys Music Diner [tickets] #
May 18 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Pyramid Scheme [tickets] #
May 19 – Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre [tickets] #
May 20 – Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium (Dempseys Upstairs) # [tickets]
May 21 – Winnipeg, MB @ WECC [tickets] #
May 23 – Saskatoon, SK @ Amigos Cantina [tickets] #
May 24 – Edmonton, AB @ The Starlite Room [tickets] #
May 25 – Calgary, AB @ Commonwealth [tickets] #
May 27 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival [tickets]
May 29 – Boston, MA @ Boston Calling [tickets]
June 17-19 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Northside Festival [tickets]
June 17-19 – Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands @ Best Kept Secret [tickets]
July 1 – Vilanova l La Geltru, Spain @ Vida Festival [tickets]
July 3 – Werchter, Belgium @ Rock Werchter [tickets]
Sept. 2 – Berkeley, CA @ Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley w/ Tame Impala [tickets]
Sept 3 – Berkeley, CA @ The Greek Theatre w/ Tame Impala

* w/ Lower Dens supporting
# w/ Whitney
& w/ Vinyl Williams