In Case You Missed It
Boulderganic Fall 2009
Student Guide 2009
Boulder Weekly Sweet 16 Anniversary
Summer Scene 2009
Best of Boulder 2009
Annual Manual 2009
Newspaper of the Future
Kids Camp Guide 2009
Wedding Marketplace 09
Student Guide 2008
Best of Boulder 2008
Annual Manual 2008
Join Our Mailing List
|July 3-9, 2008
Denver band A Shoreline Dream finds
a national audience
by Dave Kirby
Torture on television
How the events at Guantanamo have influenced pop culture
by Carol Rosenberg
Denver band A Shoreline Dream finds a national audience
by Dave Kirby
A Shoreline Dream drifts over some turbulent waters. Surfing heaving waves of metallic grey noise, a hypnotic alloy of edgeless guitar tone and fractured samples framing guitarist/singer Ryan Policky’s fragmented and shuttered vocalizations, the Denver-based quintet trades deliberately in bright darkness. And not without its precedents — some hear hints of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, mid-’90s sonic craftsmen like Slowdive, as well as more current shademeisters like the chilly Sigur Rós.
Vigorously niche in their appeal, compared at least against today’s rock mainstream, Policky makes a point of both believing in the band’s neo-shoegazer posture and moving his way relentlessly and single-mindedly toward getting this music into the hands of everyone ready to share the glistening mirages that shimmer in his head.
“When we got together, we were pretty sure what we were after in terms of sound and the kind of music we wanted to do,” he told us last week. “We haven’t varied from that at all — we know what we want this band to sound like. And when we did our first album (2006’s Avoiding The Consequences), I basically poured every penny I had into promoting it and getting it out there.”
And to some effect. In addition to some of the Denver press, who have mostly expressed cautious support for the band’s efforts, the music also caught the ear of the indie rock tastemaker elite, including Filter and Paste magazines, which started including the band’s singles on a subscriber-tease sampler CD.
We found it ironic that rock writers — the typically loathed and belittled mules of blinkered cynicism, historically as popular as civil servants — would actually get credit once in a while for opening up some new doors.
Policky laughed a little. “Yeah, but it’s true. I mean, the guys at Paste really like what we’re doing and decided to put us on their sampler. I mean, if you take an issue of Paste with a sampler that may have, say, 300,000 circulation, we’d be happy if 5 percent of them, or even 1 percent of them decided to check us out because they liked the song on the sampler. When you’re starting out, that kind of exposure can make a huge difference.”
So can networking. The band’s latest project, a poised, gorgeously silken black single called “neverChanger” features the contributions of electronica/remix subversive Ulrich Schnauss.
“We were on tour with Innaway on the West Coast last summer. The drummer was a huge Ulrich fan… I mean, we all were, too, but he subscribed to this update mailing list from Ulrich, who just tells his fans what he’s doing and stuff. And this guy tells us that Ulrich has been listening to our latest EP (2007’s Coastal) and that it was his favorite new record.
“And I’m, like, ‘yeah, sure.’ I didn’t believe him, but it turned out to be true. I was, like, sweet. So, I just thought I’d send an e-mail and see if he wanted to do something together, and he sent back saying, yeah, he’d love to. I was totally blown away. So we sent him this song we’d been working on, and he had it for three or four months, and then it came back, and it was amazing.
“So I asked him if he was interested in doing some shows together, and he said, sure, let’s do it. So, he’s coming over to Colorado from England; we’re going to play a few shows around here, and a couple in Texas. Ulrich isn’t that well known in Colorado, and as far as I know he’s never played here. So, it’ll be a good deal for him, too.
“We’re totally stoked about going out and playing with him.”
A milestone event for the band, and with the Boulder show, a welcome infusion of some darker, more cerebral sounds from outside the Republic’s walls. Policky is glad for it, but also credits their local fan base and their community of bands for all sustaining each other.
“There’s not a huge market for this stuff in Denver, but there are a few other bands who like this kind of music, and we all try to work together and cheer each other on. I mean, I think it used to be that bands were more ‘ME ME ME’ about getting exposure and breaking into bigger markets and stuff, but now I think there’s more community and support.”
We couldn’t help suggesting to Policky that A Shoreline Dream might actually go down a storm over in the UK, where they more fully embraced this stuff 15 years ago and still retain a palpable affection for it.
“Yeah, we get that all the time. The guy over at Paste said the same thing. ‘You gotta play England, man. They’ll love you over there.’
“I kind of think he’s right. We’re working on it.”
On the Bill
Ulrich Schnauss and A Shoreline Dream will perform with Ca¢heFlowe and Ian Cooke will perform at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8, at the Fox Theatre.
back to top
Torture on television
How the events at Guantanamo have influenced pop culture
by Carol Rosenberg
In Boston this summer, an Irish comedian staged a one-hour show in an orange jumpsuit and a crown of thorns. He played Jesus Christ at Guantanamo Bay.
As the son of God, he has returned to Earth and rattled nerves at New York’s Kennedy Airport by making the mistake of saying, yes, he’s willing to die for his ideals.
“Let’s be fair,” the comedian said, delivering his shtick from a stool, in a black-lit theater. “The guy works for U.S. Immigration, and he’s just seen a single male Palestinian traveling alone with suspiciously little hand luggage. Not very reassuring in the present climate.”
In the five years since the Pentagon started holding war-on-terrorism captives at the isolated U.S. Navy base in southeastern Cuba, the policy and the place called Guantanamo have seeped into popular culture — in America and beyond.
Fed by the Internet, the phenomenon has spread across the planet with blinding speed, transforming a place into an icon, perhaps like never before. Not Nuremberg. Not Pearl Harbor. Not the Watergate.
Post-Sept. 11 Guantanamo has inspired a book of poetry, several stage productions, a punk-rock songstress, a country song, a movie, two novels, more than a half-dozen memoirs and a hip-hop concert in Washington.
It even made a cameo in Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Sicko.
Collectively, they convey antipathy for the policy, a political theater of sorts — far removed from the remote base whose message is of humane custody of would-be anti-U.S. fanatical terrorists.
An example: singer-songwriter Patti Smith’s dirge “Without Chains,” about life after years at Guantanamo for the German-born Muslim ex-detainee Murat Kurnaz, whose tale captured the New York artist’s imagination.
“I wrote as a citizen,” Smith told The Miami Herald while on summer tour in Boulder, Colo. “I don’t have any political rhetoric, or deep knowledge about these things. But just as a human being, and a mother, I found it horrifying.
“I think that the idea of some kind of political prison where people can just be put there because there might be some suspicious activity and just be left there, to me is horrifying.”
Kurnaz’s homeland, Germany, has in fact been fertile ground. He has already published his memoirs, in German, with an English translation due out early next year. Meantime, a 2004 novel by the German literary critic Dorothea Dieckmann, about life behind the razor wire as seen by a fictional prisoner, Rashid, is due out in English this year.
Australia, the homeland of former captive David Hicks, has also been a lab for artistic enterprise — sculpture, dance, music.
And, as with most political popular culture, the message is overwhelmingly dominated by opponents of the policy, from the left.
In Illinois, law professor Mark Falkoff has published Poems from Guantanamo, crude English translations of flowery Arabic and Pashtu verse written by 17 captives from behind the razor wire.
The former U.S. poet laureate, Robert Pinsky, wrote in a blurb that the poems deserve “not admiration or belief or sympathy — but attention.”
Gore Vidal declared: “At last Guantanamo has found a voice.”
The poems speak of desperation and humiliation, telling a story starkly different from the package tours for press and distinguished visitors that the Pentagon has staged weekly since bringing in the first of 770-plus captives in January 2002.
Navy Cmdr. Rick Haupt, the prison camp’s spokesman, said the command staff at Guantanamo hasn’t “reviewed” the poetry yet — but said in an e-mail that the title suggests that lawyers “exceeded the limitations” on their access to the captives arranged with the courts.
His Pentagon counterpart, Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, told reporters on their publication in June that the poems were “another tool in their battle of ideas against Western democracies against whom they are at war.”
The editor, attorney Marc Falkoff, said the Pentagon has not filed a protest over the poems with any of the U.S. lawyers whose detainee clients contributed to the book — which is on track to be the bestselling U.S. poetry anthology this year.
Five thousand copies were sold in the first six weeks, prompting the publisher to print 5,000 more in a market where most poetry anthologies have an initial 2,500 book run.
Collectively, the ubiquity of the name Guantanamo in 21st-century popular culture — coupled with its international controversy — is evolving into a linguistic shorthand.
From the 20th century, Watergate has emerged as a code word for scandal, Munich for appeasement and Auschwitz for the death camps.
But there is still an emerging consensus on the meaning of Guantanamo.
“Obviously, ‘ground zero’ is the central spot in the spiritual geography of our time,” said the cultural commentator Todd Gitlin, a Berkeley-trained sociologist who now teaches at New York’s Columbia University. “Guantanamo is now a reference point — however you code it.”
“If you’re a civil libertarian, it symbolizes executive abuse of power,” Gitlin said.
“If you’re a true believer in the administration approach, I suppose it symbolizes the special recourse you claim to deal with this sort of warrish nonwar.
“If this administration or the next actually shuts it down, I suppose it might fade as a place name, as the placeholder. But I think the name Guantanamo will have staying power.”
Google “Guantanamo” — with no accent over the “a” — and you get 11.5 million hits in .13 seconds. Do the same for “Watergate” and you get a little more than half as many hits, 6.2 million.
You get 1.8 million for “Nuremberg,” the German city where the Nazis stripped the Jews of citizenship in 1935 and where the post-World War II war powers staged the infamous war-crimes trials.
For the record, the Pentagon and prison camps spokesmen describe the treatment of captives as humane. Vice President Dick Cheney point-blank told Larry King Live recently, “We don’t do torture.”
All “enhanced techniques for interrogation,” he added, are carried out with permission of Congress.
Still, the perception of mistreatment has become synonymous with the place and the practice of indefinite detention at Guantanamo.
In mainstream movie houses, Michael Moore bobs just beyond the base in his latest leftist shock documentary, Sicko, making the military’s isolated offshore mission a metaphor for American health inequities.
Moore has set up the scene by reminding moviegoers that the Pentagon has long boasted that it provides top-notch, free universal health care to Guantanamo captives — a wily juxtaposition to his central theme of why the White House can’t cure the national health-care crisis.
“Permission to enter. I have three 9-11 rescue workers,” Moore says. “They just want some medical attention — the same kind that the evildoers are getting.”
He doesn’t get inside.
And neither does the film. The prison camp’s spokesman, Haupt, said in an e-mail from at-times isolated Guantanamo that Sicko has not been shown among first-run movies screened nightly at two open-air cinemas on the 45-square-mile base.
“We’ve not yet seen the movie here, either in our theaters or on DVD,” he replied to a query, “but have read the reviews.”
Pillow talk with Girl Talk
by Margaret Hair
In music, Gregg Gillis is complicated, cramming sample after sample into layer after layer.
In his philosophy for creating and listening to music, Gregg Gillis is minimal.
On a Tuesday afternoon the day before he left on a European tour, Gillis — who makes pop music mashups under the name Girl Talk — explained why it is acceptable to place the lyrics to YoungBloodZ and Lil Jon’s “Damn!” over the melody to “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
“For me, it’s like, that’s the music that I’m mainly into. I’ve always listened to rap music, and one of the early things that was really exciting to me was hearing rappers rap over familiar songs. In that case it’s just kind of like taking these historic documents, and then reworking them,” Gillis said of his rampant use and obvious adoration for Top 40 rap. Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” sparks something in most everyone born between 1975 and 1990, and Gillis hopes to work that recognition to his advantage.
“It’s the fact that people are familiar with it. That’s the appeal to use these songs that you loved in the past, whether you liked it or hated it,” he said.
Trying to comprehend the combinations and pairings on Girl Talk’s latest release, “Feed the Animals” would be a staggering and totally unnecessary task. There are more than 300 bits, beats and pieces of songs that range from massively popular to vaguely familiar at work here. The idea is not especially how these elements work together — it’s just that they do, and that the result makes you want to dance.
“Going into the album I don’t really sit down and say, here’s the 300 songs I’m going to sample on the album. It’s where the three things or four things that I like are going to come together,” Gillis said.
“Feed the Animals” was two years in the works before Gillis put it up for pay-as-you-like download on the Web site for his label, Illegal Art. He figures the resulting batch of 300 samples came from an initial performance collection of 2,000. It took about six months to narrow “Feed the Animals” down to a comprehensive wash of pop culture nostalgia.
“I like everything that I sample, and I go through hundreds and hundreds of combinations. And then the album becomes just kind of a retrospective of that last two years of shows,” Gillis said.
There’s no particular science or method or ideology to what Gillis puts in his miles-long library of samples. You’re just as likely to find The Band, Kenny Loggins or Phil Collins as you are Lil Wayne, Jay-Z or Missy Elliott; often, you’ll find them in the same track.
“I have no traditional musical training, and a lot of times it’s just kind of what sounds good to my ears,” Gillis said. Some things fit better rhythmically than others, and Gillis has listened to consonant music for long enough to detect obvious key clashes.
“Ideally the music will work with the vocals in new ways. I don’t want to clash things together just to clash things together,” he said. “With the flow of the album, I don’t want to have eight 1990s songs together. I try to mix it up flow-wise as much as possible.”
Compared to 2006’s “Night Ripper” — which made gobs of year-end top 10 lists and was Girl Talk’s introduction into the people-listen-to-lots-of-music mainstream — “Feed the Animals” is more accessible, with more pop in its source material and more of Girl Talk’s frantic stage presence in its feel. There are moments packed with four or five samples at a time, where each song sticks around for only a few seconds. And then there are the rest-breaks that make “Feed the Animals” an album, and not just a party mix.
“I just spent a lot more time on subtle elements than with the previous one. “It (‘Night Ripper’) was kind of one-dimensional on purpose, whereas the new one was kind of relaxed for a minute, and then other parts are very detailed,” Gillis said of his latest release.
“I think the new one — what I was going for at least — was to make it more complex and at the same time more accessible. Normally those things contradict each other. Normally when you’re making more complex music it’s more difficult to listen to, but I wanted to make this more complex and have more pop value,” he said.
In a lot of ways, pop music is sincere in its absolute lack of sincerity. Commercial rap music is genuine in its stated purpose to entertain, and Gillis puts that infectious, danceable honesty to work on “Feed the Animals.”
He doesn’t mean for any of this to be political or especially idea-driven, but if there’s one thing to take away from a Girl Talk album or live show, it’s this: Music is music, and that’s all it’s supposed to be.
“For me, if there’s any commentary at all, it’s that if you’re releasing music, especially if you’re releasing music on a mainstream label, to the public … it’s still pop,” he said, explaining that the perceived artistic value of The Beatles vs. Britney Spears doesn’t make any difference.
“You’re doing the same thing, in essence. You’re presenting this pop project to the world. If it was just for you and it’s just a very introspective thing, you would not be releasing it,” Gillis said of everyone who makes music for people to listen to and enjoy.
“It’s really the same thing. In essence, it’s just people playing songs that they want the world to hear.”
Girl Talk plays at 9 p.m. Friday, July 11, at the Fox Theatre, with Team Awesome opening the show. Tickets are $15. Girl Talk’s latest full-length release, “Feed the Animals,” is available for download now at http://illegalart.net, for however much money you want to pay for it. The CD for “Feed the Animals” comes out in September.
back to top