Published May 09, 2014Like an episode of VH1's Behind The Music made by a clearly obsessed and fastidious fanatic, when director Lance Bangs delves into the world of the band Slint in the documentary Breadcrumb Trail, he goes deep and doesn't come up for air. With every new piece of early rehearsal footage presented or interview with a figure from the group's past, you can sense Bangs needing to know everything about the band he loves, and his enthusiasm creates a potent contact buzz.
It starts by weaving a brief history of the Louisville hardcore and punk scene into which the members of Slint were thrust in the '80s. Playing live shows together from the time they hit double digits in age, young friends and opposing personalities Britt Walford and Brian McMahan bounced around in different groups before finally forming Slint with guitar virtuoso Dave Pajo and original bassist Ethan Buckler. We see them in old video clips playing in Walford's basement where they would rehearse for hours — you'll want to hug Walford's parents, who are interviewed here, for being the most supportive influences imaginable.
In tracing the band's short history, a lot of time is devoted to the recording of Slint's two albums, with special attention paid to their sophomore effort, Spiderland. There are insights into their songwriting process, in which we glimpse a riff slowly becoming the foundation for the rest of the band to build upon, and hear McMahan describe how his vocals were created while sitting in a hot car in a garage. Producer Steve Albini discusses the circumstances surrounding the making of their debut, while also admitting to the irony of how Spiderland is now a template for how he works, despite the fact that he did not produce it. Bangs manages to corral everyone even vaguely associated with the band into appearing on camera, from all of its members to past girlfriends, leaving few stones unturned in the process.
Then, of course, there is the music of Slint, which will probably dictate whether you are really interested in all of this painstaking detail. It's indisputable that they created an entirely unique and evocative sound, one that merged snaking grooves with spoken-word to cast a hypnotic spell.
The lasting impression, though, is of the ethereal nature of bands. It's so hard to find all of the disparate parts to fit together in the right way, and yet so easy for it all to come apart. But even if you only find that elusive alchemy for a short period of time, like Slint, it can still be enough to ignite a fire in people like Bangs and become eternal.
Breadcrumb Trail will play on May 9 at Toronto's Royal Cinema as part of CMW Film Fest.