Six months before Nirvana’s “Nevermind” came out in 1991, a band called Slint — playing Seattle’s Showbox Wednesday — issued its own one-of-a-kind record.
An angular, shadowy six-song suite, “Spiderland” is today considered by many to be the genesis of post-rock, a style emphasizing atmosphere and extreme dynamics over verses and choruses. Without it, there’d be no Mogwai, no Sigur Rós, no Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Less than a year after its release, the foursome split up without performing live even once to support it. How could a group go so quietly after creating something so significant?
And who were they, exactly?
Kids — according to Portland-based filmmaker Lance Bangs’ documentary “Breadcrumb Trail” — Montessori-reared cutups who were writing, recording and touring literally before they could carry their own amps. They were barely out of their teens when they made their grandest statement.
Bangs is no stranger to Seattle area music. His past credits include “Nirvana: With The Lights Out” and he is married to Corin Tucker, singer-guitarist with Olympia punk heroines Sleater-Kinney.
“Breadcrumb Trail” is more prequel than catchall retrospective. The two-hour film chronicles the members’ coming of age in 1980s Louisville, Ky. ’s punk scene. It exposes Slint without ruining the mystique, using archival Super 8 footage one must see to believe. These rugrats, given to pranks and scatological humor, made this deep, brooding music?
Named for “Spiderland’s” manic opening salvo, “Breadcrumb Trail” originated as a concert movie around the group’s surprise 2005 reunion, but Bangs saw more potential in his backstage footage.
“Hearing them rehearse, talk and tell stories made me want to go back and retrace where they’d come from,” he says. “How did they start making such unique music when they were 11, 12 years old? How weird was the world of music pre-Internet, pre-Nirvana? I wanted to put into context how distinct ‘Spiderland’ was for when it was made.”
Unlike other contemporary-rock docs — about careers cut short (Big Star, “Nothing Can Hurt Me”), redeemed (Rodriguez, “Searching for Sugar Man”) or both (“A Band Called Death”) — “Breadcrumb Trail” isn’t a tale of lost music or personal loss so much as lost innocence.
Slint didn’t blow up or burn out — they just sort of trailed off — and in interviews conducted in the middle of the night, reticent drummer-composer Britt Walford wonders, with a tinge of sadness, what might’ve been if he and his bandmates hadn’t grown up so fast.
“A lot of the film feels nocturnal, like a date that’s gone deep into the evening,” says Bangs, 41. “When Britt and [singer-guitarist] Brian [McMahan] saw cuts along the way they weren’t sure who’d want to watch it, and worried about sounding dumb … but in time, realized what they did was really interesting.”
Although “Breadcrumb Trail” will be available to stream on iTunes and Netflix soon, those unwilling to wait can find it on DVD as part of Touch and Go Records’ recent “Spiderland” reissue.
Slint’s live performances — better late than never — don’t disappoint. Still, this is introvert music arguably best enjoyed alone than in a crowded room.
If you’re already familiar, definitely go; if not, start with the album — but see the movie either way.
Slint, Tropical Trash
8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27 at the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $25-$30 (206-628-3151 or showboxpresents.com).