Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Numero Group
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock, Noise-Rock
There were dead rats in the walls of Steve Fisk’s Avast! Studios in Seattle, recounts the liner notes of the new Unwound box set Rat Conspiracy, when the trio of drummer Sara Lund, bassist Vern Rumsey, and singer-guitarist Justin Trosper convened there in March of 1994 to mix their album New Plastic Ideas. After hours upon hours at the board, it got to be too much. Mingling with the perpetual pall of stale cigarette smoke in the studio, the stench of decomposing rodent was so bad that Lund had to run outside just to catch her breath.
Rat Conspiracy is the second in a series of box sets chronicling the development of Olympia, Washington indie punk legends Unwound. Following 2013's Kid Is Gone, which collected demos, radio sessions, and other various odds and ends from the early days with their first drummer, Rat Conspiracy picks up in 1993 with the introduction of second (and final) drummer Sara Lund. With Lund, the band truly found their sound, building on the fury of punk but stretching it out with introspective composition, bleak lyrics either muttered or screamed by vocalist/guitarist Justin Trosper, and squalls of feedback that somehow melded abrasiveness with melody.
Thus far, the tireless label Numero Group only has two bands in its 200 Series of reissues. The first is Codeine, a short-lived band with a long resonant sound. They covered their material lovingly in one big box set. The other is Unwound, who present us with a much longer story to tell. If ….
The niceties of music fandom and stylistic hairsplitting that arguably worked against Unwound during their decade or so together have probably also helped to make them a cultish and bankable band circa 2014. Rat Conspiracy – a handsome and only slightly overpriced triple-LP box set by the curatorial Numero label – indicates, in both the compiled music and the illustrated biography that accompanies it, that this Olympia, WA trio were on the cusp of many things, without ever fitting into any of them easily. Forming in 1991 and releasing their debut single that same year, they had close ties with the riot grrrl scene which fomented in Olympia at that precise time – most of their music was released by Kill Rock Stars, whose early nineties roster also included Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear.