Slint at Mill City Nights, 5/11/14
|Brian McMahan of Slint|
Mill City Nights, Minneapolis
Sunday, May 11, 2014
In 1989, a band called Slint stopped in Minneapolis to play a show. They were still teenagers. Two years later, Slint would release the album Spiderland, a work that came to be widely credited as the birth of post-rock. Last night, Slint returned to Minneapolis after 25 years to grace the stage at Mill City Nights. There was an odd kind of magic in the air. Their performance was surprisingly tight.
While they have played together sporadically at the behest of festival promoters, this tour hallmarks the recent reissue of Spiderland as a deluxe box set including a documentary and limited edition book. Still, they have no plans of recording or releasing any new material. The innovative body of work that they created within their band's short lifespan was enough in itself to draw a full crowd out to the venue on a Sunday night.
Opener Wrekmeister Harmonies set an appropriate tone for the evening. Bathed in muted lights, he sat alone onstage. His long gray hair appeared to be almost translucent under the pale glow. He played his guitar with his entire body, creating a sprawling web of feedback as notes swallowed one another.
Named after the Bela Tarr movie Werckmeister Harmonies, the project is an experimental music collective led by JR Robinson, the sole representative of the collective to join Slint on their tour. Robinson dances between several musical ideas, incorporating elements of drone, post-rock, and metal. He is known for bringing together revered black metal and experimental musicians to perform compositions, typically in museums or other unconventional venues. This completes the circle back to where he began: recording sonic templates in museums throughout the US and Europe.
Robinson's deep voice occasionally burst into an anguished howl as he plucked his guitar, creating a dreadful lullaby. What began as a whisper would increase in volume until meeting its end in a scornful cry. Against a backdrop of droning electronic rumbles of thunder, he built his songs slowly, adding an emotional charge to the air. The sense of impending doom never ceased to dispel until the very end of his set, where the sound exploded into a cacophony of guitar chords.
Without any sort of introduction, or any words to the audience, Slint began their set. People stood still as death, some heads tentatively nodding to the opening bars of "For Dinner." Yet after the song, they erupted into enthusiastic applause. Singer Brian McMahan leaned casually up against the wall. He finally spoke. "Last time we played in this town, it was 1989." Then the band immediately launched into "Breadcrumb Trail."
Illuminated by pink light, McMahan bounced to Walford's drumming as he orated the song's verses, then broke into the tortured yell of the chorus. "Breadcrumb Trail" has a sensation similar to moving back and forth from an empty night into a brittle dawn, over and over. All of Slint's music provokes a feeling of traveling through equally dense and sparse landscapes, packed with emotion: triumphs, regrets, love lost.
A few songs in now, the audience had begun to move more aggressively. Yet between each song there was relative silence. Mill City Nights felt smaller and more intimate than its size due to the climate created by those in attendance. All seemed to be drunk on Slint, or were perhaps experience great moments of nostalgia. Indeed an entire generation was born and grew into their twenties in the time that Spiderland has existed. Fans of a similar age to the band's members may have intertwined the sounds with their own life experiences for so many years. Young or old, all were clearly affected by the timeless angst.