Sacred Sphinx

by Tender Mercy

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released February 12, 2015

Mark Kramer Guitar/vocals

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
Sean Padilla
Sean Bailey
Louisville Music Culture
Mike Seymour
Syd Bishop
Phil Olympia
Joe Anderl/The 1984 Draft
Tim Anderl/Ghettoblaster
Susan Doyle/David James
Delia Rainey
Jesse Ceilings
Andrew Lampela
Evan Bailey/Pinata Me
Brian Manley
Twin Limb
Tony Presley/Real Live Tigers
Tim Barnes/Dreamland
Zach Hart/We Listen For You
Lacey Guthrie/Maryliz Guillemi/Metacult Creative
Kyle Meredith
Shadwick Wilde/Quiet Hollers
Cher Von
Bobby Barbour
Sarah Davis
Jim Marlowe
Brandon Butler
Six Bells
Logan Nichols
John King/Louisville Is For Lovers
The Room Outside
Amy Oelsner/Vollmar
Chris Martin/Pet Eunuch
Ben Traughber
Billy Hardison

Louisville singer-songwriter Mark Kramer delivers completely arresting compositions that are so stark and atmospheric that one can't help but be mind-boggled by the delicate balances he strikes between tension,desperation and beauty. To say there are few other artists existing in the same universe as Tender Mercy is a complete understatement. However,if one were to muster a comparison,imagine Sigur Ros or Jonsi stripped to the barest minimum, but retaining the heartstring pull and goose pump conjuring magic. Sacred Sphinx is at once brilliant, thoughtful,otherworldly and completely consuming. It also isn't for the faint of heart or spirit despite it's calming affects. If you really listen, this is the kind of record that tears open chakras that haven't been discovered yet. It is less an exercise in listening than a challenging and completely satisfying full-body experience - a 20 minute cleanse for discerning ears.
-Tim Anderl/Ghettoblaster Magazine

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



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Tender Mercy Louisville, Kentucky

"An absolute treasure to Louisville music"
-LEO ( review/)

Louisville's Mark Kramer (aka Tender Mercy) crafts softly dramatic experimental folk ballads that analyze the hypnotic ability of sound.
-Zach Hart/We Listen For You (
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Track Name: Invisible
You want to be invisible
to hang your head down low
keep a low profile
you want to be invisible

You want to disappear
into thin air
like you were never here
you want to disappear
Track Name: Doubt
Your doubt it binds your feet
so you wont try to leave
your doubt it ties your hands
so you won't try to reach

Your doubt it takes your confidence
and replaces it with "I can't"
pulls you under the surface
so breath it in make it your last breath
Track Name: Dirt Mountains
You rule the day
with your friends
ride your bike
to the dirt mountains

The night falls
there's no shade at all
then dinner ends
and the problems begin

The Taliban
the Viet Cong
now your mom