Back in the early ’90s I remember picking up on a musical thread that often seemed to pop up, almost in passing, in many of the fanzines I was reading at the time. I kept reading the phrase ‘post-rock’, without really giving much thought to what it meant, beyond being another handy yet meaningless hook on which to hang reviews. With hindsight, the phrase begins to make some sense: as grunge quickly got swallowed up by the mainstream, underground guitar music out of America seemed to diversify in a couple of directions. There was the slowing-down ethic of bands like Codeine and Low, alongside the progressive, largely vocal-free directions of bands like Slint and Rodan. Obviously there was no clean-cut cultural shift from one style of sound to another, these things always cross over and bleed into one another, but looking back now there was certainly a move towards a new, stranger take on guitar noise that had been hinted at previously but which nowadays, fifteen years later, is pretty much the accepted norm.
Rusty was the only album released by Rodan and it encapsulates this shift pretty well. Long, meandering songs, with out-there structures, tempo changes and vocals hidden in the mix to the point of being more like thoughts captured on vinyl. And, especially, the extreme dynamic range that now sounds so passé when reflected through the lesser skill set of a thousand follow-on bands. Quiet passages suddenly exploding into screaming noise. Aggressively non-commercial music that, against all odds, now informs more independent music than anybody could ever have predicted.
Somebody needs to write a book about this period of music. For now, look at the album cover above and mull on its importance. Those of you who’ve got the record and the free poster contained within, look over the credits/thanks information to see how Rodan fit into the musical landscape of the time: the list includes Bob Weston, Simple Machines, Compulsiv, Touch’n’Go, Don Caballero, and many more. Regardless of all this historical analysis, make sure that you listen to the record: it is great.