These days old 20JFG gets up when young 20JFG would have gone to bed.
Getting in at 5am, throwing a blanket over the window and trying to sleep before you started to feel human. That was the one true path. Now we awake at the weekend far too early, our body clocks perverted by weekday travels up to the glittering beast to the north.
And so it was, on one of these weekend mornings — still dark outside but our brain wired and awake — that we started thinking about RVNG, the label we’ve so consistently stan’d for many years now.
We started to think about RVNG as they’d just put out a particularly wonderful, particularly melancholy record by Mark Renner. Renner was largely unknown outside rarified Baltimore music circles and worked in various jobs over the decades while recording and painting. He had a brief brush with nearly-fame with an (ultimately unsuccessful) demo he made in the UK in the 80s but that was it for music stardom.
And yet. And yet, here we are over 30 years later, sifting through 21 tracks of a man’s music: two early albums he made and other assorted tracks. A series of moments held in time, divorced from the entropy music suffers when exposed to the wider world.
These tracks do sound of their time, part 80s indie pop, part Cluster, part Eno. But it’s the unfamiliarity, the space between the production of the music and the meshing gears of the culture, that’s the thing. And that’s the thing with much of what RVNG do so well. They offer a second chance to us as listeners and the artists themselves. A chance to engage quietly and on our own terms with music. To time travel. And yet, as with all great time travel stories, there’s a sadness because we can’t change the past. We can’t encourage more music at the time it was made. We can’t show our appreciation at the time of its production.
But if we can’t change the past, we can at least enjoy the present.
James Cowie (The Portrait Group) is late(r) period Renner. Gone are the words. This is a deceptively simple folk melody played out over two and a half minutes. What makes it special and what made us post it alongside the text above is that its so achingly sad. Behind the melody, a synth bed hovers throughout. Sinister in the way that Lynch and Badalamenti perfected. Simple, clear and, ultimately, terrifying. The rain here too. Falling throughout, distorting our bucolic view of the melody. The three combine to create the perfect symbolic soundtrack for the melancholy of the reissue.
Few Traces by Mark Renner is out now on RVNG. Get it here.