On a trip this past weekend to faraway shores (of Chicago), the question was posited: What the hell is "math rock"? And why doesn't my local record shop have a "Math Rock" section?
Rather than go on some long-winded treatise on what makes a math rock band so mathematically mathy, one can basically point a finger at Louisville, KY circa 1989-1993 and there you go. Why Louisville? Ask the legendary Slint, the main proto-math act that also happened to call Louisville their home. For some reason kids in the late 80s/early 90s took the pummeling Chicago sound of Big Black, Naked Raygun and their ilk, matched it with Sonic Youth and 1970s Prog Rock (Yes, King Crimson, etc.), and fashioned their own unique take on indie rock. With precisely mapped out songs that start and stop on a dime, switch time signatures with abandon, and have carefully-laid-out angular, interwoven guitars sitting meshed with sometimes spoken, sometimes screamed vocals, the classic math rock acts carved out their own little niche that - with the notable exception of Slint - received little attention from the rock world at large.
And it basically happened in Louisville.
Slint begat, well, just pop over to Wikipedia for the family tree.
During the mid-Slintocene age, in 1992, Rodan formed. They released a record and promptly broke up, before they reached critical mass (as some thought was just around the corner). They too begat a family tree that needs parchment scrolls to map out - each baby carving out the next ring on the math rock tree.
And so today we begin our lesson plan with Rodan's only LP, 1994's Rusty. Named after recording engineer Bob "Rusty" Weston, bassist in Shellac and legendary engineer that follows the same ethos as Steve Albini, this record is Math Rock 101. Starting with the beautiful - and I mean that in the classical sense, as in "stunning beauty" - leadoff track "Bible Silver Corner", just when you've settled in for a nice late-night listening session, a dry red wine in hand, you get pummeled with the hardcore of "Shiner". Then things fly off the deep end with the uncategorizable, epic sprawling of "The Everyday World Of Bodies" at which point you're hooked for life. "Jungle Jim" brings it back down to earth a bit, but then angular-guitars itself into Tweezland (ref: Slint's debut LP Tweez). "Gauge" is a nice summation of things to this point, with "Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto" closing things out on a stellar note.
On a sad note, Rodan guitarist Jason Noble is laid up recovering from a very rare form of cancer, having just had surgery. I tried looking for a link to a donations area but failed to locate one - however there is this page which has some options to donate in Jason's name (as well as an area to follow his recovery).
So, with wishes streaming to Jason for a speedy recovery, let's enjoy Rusty.
(1994, Quarterstick Records)
01 Bible Silver Corner
03 The Everyday World of Bodies
04 Jungle Jim
06 Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto
one zip file for you to enjoy!