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[UNTITLED] CUTS

To understand why the music made by Boulder's is so eclectic, it's best to go back to 1987--when, according to bassist Trevor Dutton, "We decided to start a band before we had the instruments." Or at least they didn't have any conventional rock-and-roll instruments. Guitarist/ vocalist/philosophy student Bret Ellerton reveals,...
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To understand why the music made by Boulder's [Untitled] is so eclectic, it's best to go back to 1987--when, according to bassist Trevor Dutton, "We decided to start a band before we had the instruments."

Or at least they didn't have any conventional rock-and-roll instruments. Guitarist/ vocalist/philosophy student Bret Ellerton reveals, "I had a Casio Tone grandma keyboard that my parents got me for Christmas."

That proved to be enough for Dutton, Ellerton and drummer/vocalist Mike Young, the core members of [Untitled] (keyboardist Robb Kunz and percussionist/religious-studies major Michael Doherty, who joined up two years ago, complete the lineup). Then in seventh grade, the threesome dubbed themselves the Bloody Ear Muffs and prepared to conquer the world. "We used to make slap-happy, goofy, bloody-ear-muff type of music, kind of like the Dead Milkmen," Dutton remembers. "Then we got into a goth phase in high school. We wanted to make darker music, and we changed our name to Morbid Vex. But after a while we didn't necessarily want to make dark music anymore. So that's kind of how the name [Untitled] came about. Because we didn't want to decide beforehand what the music had to sound like."

The 1994 [Untitled] cassette Bad Hat Situational, produced by Dutton, suggests that the bandmates remain in an indecisive stage. For one thing, they are listed on the recording's credits under oddball pseudonyms: Doherty plays as Gideon, Ellerton is Boddom, Young's alias is My Dog, Kunz goes by Ganglion and Dutton's appropriate moniker is Mr. Grump Torv. For another, the music is stylistically all over the map. The Young-penned "Sir Bill," for example, references both William Burroughs and William Tell in the context of a tune that's borderline inaccessible, while "Disco Space Man," originally created for the soundtrack of a public-access TV show that never materialized, is inexplicably entertaining in a completely different way. And the tape's instrumental cuts (described on the package's lyric sheet as being "beyond words") are just as diverse as the quintet's cited influences, which include the Legendary Pink Dots, Coil and Voivod.

These tracks and others are sprinkled with various samples and electronic snippets generated by keyboards that have begun to dominate the band's sound. Even Doherty's drums have now been replaced by a machine--but he's not complaining. He says that playing drums live "isn't feasible right now for a lot of reasons, like practice space. And you have to be really good to be able to keep up, keep a beat. A lot of our songs have time changes and rhythm changes. Plus, there's a lot you can do with sequencing."

Translating this growing fascination with technology to the stage hasn't been easy, in part because of logistics. While Ellerton and Dutton reside in Boulder, their cohorts are scattered: Doherty lives in Fort Collins, while Kunz and Young are based in Austin, Texas. As a result, most of [Untitled]'s local appearances have featured a trio format. The band's long-term plans call for a move to the Lone Star state, but Ellerton notes that he'd like to relocate without neglecting the Colorado fan base.

"There's a select few people here who like our music," Doherty insists.
As for the rest of the populace, Ellerton says, "I think a lot of people don't understand it or just aren't used to it. Or don't like it."

This problem, the [Untitled]s feel, is exacerbated by the area club scene. Although the combo has graced the stages at venues such as Club 156, the Mercury Cafe and Asylum art gallery, Dutton says, "There's no one place that we really fit into. From a marketing aspect, there are no bands that really fit on a bill with us, either. So we just prefer playing with our friends."

Still, the musicians aren't averse to reaching listeners who don't also happen to be their pals--and they've turned to video to assist them. Dutton, an art major at CU-Boulder, made the intriguing video for the song "Half Tranquil" happen. "I took a class in video production and spent the whole semester learning the equipment and then putting the video together," he says. "Some of it was just shots of us with weird reflections. I also had my friends pose, or else I got in front of the camera myself. I was in a photo class at the same time, so I worked the colors with the color control and took pictures of the video."

The "Half Tranquil" results have already inspired Dutton to make a second video, which debuted during a recent Boulder gig. Will the not-yet-titled clip win over those listeners who've thus far resisted [Untitled]'s charms? Hard to say--but Ellerton likes it. "I saw some of it," he concedes. "I caught glances of fleshy parts. It's art."

"Yeah," Dutton agrees. "That's what we keep telling ourselves.

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