It’s a pretty safe bet that most people who frequent this website are already familiar with Slint, the weird, relatively secretive band of young dudes from Louisville, KY, that sort of defined what post rock would sound like in the years following the release of their two albums, 1989’s Tweez and 1991’s Spiderland. Growing out of the sui generis hardcore scene of Louisville (which is an entirely different kind of town, in case you’ve never visited), Slint found some pretty ingenious ways to use a couple guitars, a bass, and drums to create some timeless and resounding pieces of music. Breadcrumb Trail, while functioning mainly as an awesome bonus disc for an already killer (and already sold out) box set, is an extremely well put-together documentary, and viewers who have no idea who Slint are (and wouldn’t care either way) will still come away with a respect for the care and thoughtfulness that went into making it.
Lance Bangs, veteran music video director, Jackass collaborator, and no stranger to the music documentary, crafted this definitive chronicle of Spiderland using plenty of archival footage of the young band at work, interviews with indie luminaries ranging from Steve Albini and David Yow to Matt Sweeney and Matmos’s Drew Daniel, and incredibly revealing conversations with the bandmates themselves. Breadcrumb Trail, taking its name from a track off Slint’s second and final album, lays bare the ultimately goofy and sometimes vulgar backstory of a band that, most likely because of their lack of realization concerning how big a deal they were, had remained shrouded in an intoxicating mystique for decades.
Unabashedly a special-interest piece, the film does an incredible job of cutting to the core of what made Slint such a rare and ponderous thing. A group of weirdo teenaged Louisvillians who’d all played in various bands throughout high school got together in drummer Brit Walford’s basement and spent hours recording monotonous jams, bodily functions, and finally some fairly intricate syncopated contrapuntal compositions that resulted in an album bereft of liner notes, bearing only a black-and-white photo (taken by Will Oldham) of the band floating in a quarry outside Louisville. One of the true joys of the film stems from Bangs’s interviews with Brit Walford’s parents, who not only put up with but encouraged their son and his friends’ occupation of their basement at all hours of the day and night, never stifling their grating, hours-long explorations of a single guitar riff/drum line pattern. If it weren’t for Brit’s chill mom and dad, Slint probably would’ve come out with an entirely different magnum opus.
Bangs spends a fair amount of time gathering feedback from artists who were active in the Louisville scene at the time, gauging just how momentous the release of Spiderland was to people who were there when it dropped. While most insist that there was a palpable otherness to the record, when Bangs speaks with the members of the band they all maintain that they didn’t think it merited that kind of acclaim. Slint comes off as a group of teens who were ultimately interested in making something cool together, and once they got bored with that they split up on friendly terms, later making some pretty great stuff with several other remarkably influential bands over the last couple of decades.
Lance Bangs has turned in without a doubt the best film he’s ever made with Breadcrumb Trail. Earlier efforts like Pavement - Slow Century, while inventive in their own right, don’t manage to capture the same kind of depth and levity as this latest effort. Slint fans will find plenty to geek out over, and those merely interested in a great example of creative process will probably come away with a new record they’ll want to snag.