Produced by Mark Kramer
Recorded at The Scooter Room,Louisville,KY
Mastered by Brian Lueken at Decibel Mastering
Biggest of thanks:
Alex Glasnovic/Carpithian Cassettes
Louisville Music Culture
Joe Anderl/The 1984 Draft
Susan Doyle/David James
Evan Bailey/Pinata Me
Tony Presley/Real Live Tigers
Zach Hart/We Listen For You
Lacey Guthrie/Maryliz Guillemi/Metacult Creative
Shadwick Wilde/Quiet Hollers
John King/Louisville Is For Lovers
The Room Outside
Chris Martin/Pet Eunuch
Tender Mercy‘s 5-song EP Sacred Sphinx follows up on his 2014 debut of the same length. His milieu hasn’t changed a bit: it’s still Mark Kramer’s forlorn voice, a gently plucked guitar, tape hiss, and reverb. The minimalist, slowcore songs that result are heavily mood-oriented pieces; they rely not on complexity, but on the all-pervasive mood that the few elements create. It takes work to make simplicity sound so vital, and it’s clear that Kramer has put in that work.
Because of the stark minimalism, the melodies that Kramer features feel immediate and foregrounded: the vocals in the chorus of “Invisible” and the guitar patterns in “Doubt” and “MLK Day” are particularly striking. By contrast, the near-consistent guitar strumming of “Dirt Mtns” feels like a grand statement. Tender Mercy’s songs create an alternate universe for themselves and suck you into it: they seem difficult and foreboding at first, but their charms unfold as the listener slowly accustoms to the type of world that Kramer is imagining. Slow down a bit and enjoy Sacred Sphinx; it’s not the sort of thing that you work to. It’s an experience to be savored.
-Stephen Carradini/Independent Clauses
Mark Kramer, the man behind the curtains in Tender Mercy, never fails to capture a level of intimacy in his music that would feel intimidating to a less secure musician. His newest, “Sacred Sphinx,” feels somehow even more naked than before, the ghostly guitar serving as the sole accompaniment again, but even more stripped down than before. Kramer’s currency is his restraint, his ability to allow a melody to remain so achingly bare-bone that it seems to fade out of existence at times, like a sleepy afternoon spent nodding off to something you love. Per usual, the real tension lies in the space between the notes, between his delicate voice and gently plucked string work on the guitar, made that much more lush with a liberal use of reverb, though not to the point of obscuring the character of either instrument here.
-Syd Bishop/LEO Weekly
One of the toughest, and most under appreciated things to pull off in music is being quiet. Playing quietly requires you to be much more precise and deliberate with every note. Individual tones and intervals are thoroughly heard and taken in, so each note means a lot more. This is why the new Tender Mercy album Sacred Sphinx is so impressive.
Sacred Sphinx is a meditative trip through the mind of Mark Kramer, the single artist on the project. It’s beautifully layered with a cathedral-sounding reverb and delay when it is needed. With these effects Mark is able to make one note boom as if you are alone in the Grand Canyon.
Albums like this are rare. Mark Kramer knows when silence is more important than finding the next note. Also, barely any chords are played on the guitar through the entire album. He hits one note at a time, always making sure it’s the right one. The album uses these techniques and layers as a theme that makes the album as a whole, one piece of sonic art.
-Jake Hellman/Never Nervous