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About Rodan

A seminal influence on the avant-garde wing of indie rock, Rodan were habitually likened to fellow Louisville natives and math rock pioneers Slint. Slint were certainly a crystal-clear influence on the group's angular art-punk, easily heard in their 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. 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 dramatically shifting volume. Although Rodan's existence was short, producing only one full-length album in their three years (1994's Rusty), their impact on math rock and post-rock was far-reaching, and most of the members moved on to new projects that were also challenging and influential. Rodan was formed in Louisville, Kentucky, 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 star of Japanese monster movies. 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 in 1993 by contributing the track "Darjeeling" to the four-song various-artists seven-inch Inclined Plane, on the Simple Machines label; they shared disc space with Superchunk, Tsunami, and Unrest. It was followed by a one-off single for Three Little Girls called How the Winter Was Passed, which featured the tracks "Milk and Melancholy" and "Exoskeleton." With the help of that work and the self-released cassette Aviary, Rodan landed a deal with the Touch & Go Records subsidiary Quarterstick. The label 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, co-directed by Michael Galinsky of the band Sleepyhead, 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 bandmembers' 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, and went on to cut a handful of solo albums as well as collaborating with numerous indie acts of note. Jason Noble was a founding member of the post-rock chamber trio Rachel's, which enjoyed high acclaim, and in 1996 he joined forces with Mueller to form the Shipping News. 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). Jason Noble died in 2012 after battling cancer; one of his final musical projects was helping to remaster rare non-LP material for a Rodan rarities compilation, Fifteen Quiet Years. Long-lost tapes from a Rodan demo session recorded in Baltimore in 1993 were remixed and issued in 2019 under the title Hat Factory '93, with the proceeds donated to Girls Rock Louisville. ~ Steve Huey

Louisville, KY, United States of America