04 November 2012

RODAN Rusty 1994


[+] by Steve Huey
A seminal influence on the avant-garde wing of indie rock, Rodan were habitually likened to fellow Louisville natives and math rock pioneers Slint. And it was true that Slint were a crystal-clear influence on the group's loud, angular art-punk -- easily heard in the extreme dynamic shifts, deliberate tempos, lengthy compositions, and half-spoken vocals. Yet Rodan put their own stamp on the basic blueprint, ratcheting up the energy and writing fuller, more complex arrangements. In doing so, they helped codify the pummeling yet intellectual aesthetic of what was soon dubbed math rock: textured, patterned soundscapes built on the controlled, precise use of abrasive noise and high volume. Although Rodan's existence was short, producing only one album, their impact on math rock and post-rock was far-reaching; what was more, most of the members moved on to new projects that were often just as challenging, whether they resembled Rodan's musical modus operandi or not.Rodan were formed in Louisville, KY, in 1992 by guitarists Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller, who'd been playing together since high school and had gone to art school before deciding to concentrate on music. They enlisted bassist Tara Jane O'Neil, and initially dubbed themselves Kinkhead International. With the arrival of drummer Jon Cook -- also a member of local stalwarts Crain -- they switched their name to Rodan, after the pterodactyl character in the Godzilla monster movies. Still committed to Crain as his primary gig, Cook didn't stick around for long; he was replaced briefly by Jon Weiss, then permanently by Kevin Coultas. Rodan made their recorded debut as part of the four-song various-artists 7" Inclined Plane, on Tsunami's Simple Machines label (their track was "Darjeeling"). It was followed by a one-off single for Three Little Girls called How the Winter Was Passed, which featured two tracks, "Milk and Melancholy" and "Exoskeleton." With the help of that work and the self-released cassette Aviary, Rodan landed a deal with Touch & Go Records subsidiary Quarterstick. They issued their debut album, Rusty, in the spring of 1994, taking its title from engineer Bob "Rusty" Weston. It received highly positive reviews and fairly widespread press attention, quickly turning the group into a cult phenomenon. Surprisingly, they elected to disband by the end of 1994, perhaps overwhelmed by the response. They still managed to appear in the indie-themed film Half Cocked, with O'Neil playing one of the lead characters; Rodan also contributed one song, "Tron," to the soundtrack.Rodan's early breakup only served to enhance their cult reputation, as did the band members' subsequent projects. Jeff Mueller formed June of 44, which continued in a similar -- if more conventionally structured -- fashion as Rodan, and released several albums over the rest of the '90s. Tara Jane O'Neil teamed with Cynthia Nelson (ex-Ruby Falls) in the indie pop outfit Retsin, which also issued several albums. Jason Noble formed the post-rock chamber trio Rachel's, which enjoyed a level of acclaim that generally matched or exceeded that of Rodan. Kevin Coultas played with Rachel's for a short time, as well as Thalia Zedek's Come, before reuniting with O'Neil in the Sonora Pine (which also featured June of 44 guitarist Sean Meadows). O'Neil embarked on a solo career in 2000, while Mueller and Noble simultaneously reunited in the Shipping News.
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