Wednesday, August 11, 2010

out of the fish, a dark crocus emerges

According to those annals curated by Ubu Projex, Proto Pere stole under the wire into what was soon to become Ubuttoir De Facto in the city of South Euclid, Ohio sometime in late 1975. Therein seeding the earliest documented shoots of their "Heart of Darkness".

While drummer, Scott Krauss shares writing credit on its definitive coupling with "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" - released on Hearthen (Hearpen) in that same year - the dress rehearsal is anchored solely by Tim Wright's bass; the shadowy weight of an exploratory craft set adrift with one hand pummelling on its rotten hull.

Quite what the cargo is, or where it is going, is subject to conjecture.

Undecided. Agitated. It sails drunkenly on stagnant, uncharted waters. 

Underlining Conrad; foul orchids; the potential for misdirected violence.

In its protean form, it remained unreleased until its appearance on the terminal drive of Cooking Vinyl's "Datapanik in the Year Zero" some twenty-one years later. Its direct descendant, more than any other offering from Pere Ubu, perfectly anticipates the concrete chambers and valves of Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures". Muscle and tendon infused with lead.

Peter Laughner is restrained. Strung out. Focused. Pere Ubu, a coiled tuberous corm.

In one song - one might reasonably claim - stocking a reservoir of refracted dystopia for years to come.

Well. We have been here before, you will doubtless recall. I am infected with the unfolding of the crocus still:

"At times a virus infected spider scrabbling over shards of brittle glass, at others a bleak mushrooming nerve agent, the corpulent presence of Thomas and the nihilistic but hugely inventive experimental tones created by Laughner coalesced into a cold blue flame licking out broken windows in the seedy bars of Cleveland to ignite pockets of interest outwith even America."

That Pere Ubu's earliest Cleveland recordings continue to elicit fascination owes much to Laughner's part in the group dynamic, of course, but does not alone explain it. Those nutrients percolating down into the basement propelled Ubu out of the tombs into the blank triumph of "The Modern Dance" and beyond. Peter Laughner's tragic demise was a wound which Pere Ubu survived. In those days before David Thomas chased out Vachel Lindsay, or outwardly bore witness to Kingdom Hall, the forces which galvanized him seemed not so much biblical as tainted by universal pollutants.

Vietnam. Recession. Listlessness. Fright.

The interment of an irrational optimism which flourished briefly in the 1960s.

Much of the time, I find myself not so much in disagreement with any dire prognosis, as simply astonished that one day continues to follow on the last; an endless succession of crisis and war - disorder - a flipbook animation of human distemper travelling all the way back to Adam and Eve.

One holocaust after another.

So. Same as it ever was. A tangle of angels and words. Jihadi. Pulchritude. 

Mortal combat.

Endurance of the human condition through procreation rather than spiritual rebirth.

The 'p' in Hearpan might be Anglo-Saxon for 'th' - the whole a harp or lyre - but I hear mostly moist flutterings. A deluge of insects.

David Thomas: vocals; Peter Laughner: guitar;
Tim Wright: bass; Dave Taylor: EML synthesizer.

PERE UBU : HEART OF DARKNESS (REHEARSAL) from "Disc V: Terminal Drive: Rarities (Datapanik In The Year Zero)" 5 x CD (Cooking Vinyl) 1996 (US)


Anonymous said...

Hah! Finally someone else who sees Pere Ubu influence in Joy Division's work - 1 track ( I forget which - should have nicked it,the loss wouldn't have been noticed) on the B side of this:
heard on cheapo record player in early 80s in a mate's bedsit had me sputtering & protesting "but but but yeah but no this is what Joy Division sounded like 3 or 4 years ago - When oh when WAS this realeased?...oh!, oh really!...oh, *dammit!* um,... let's play that Dexy's LP instead & roll another one....
aw (renegade soundwave / MC Solaar commenter)

ib said...

Well, anonymous #2. We are in complete agreement.

I don't think it is too much of an exaggeration to suggest that in the '75 45 release of "Heart of Darkness", Pere Ubu unwittingly engineered the blueprint for that Joy Division sound.

Forget Ian's infatuation for Iggy. Raw Stooges thrash. What really spoke to Warsaw - and was wholly within their grasp - was that bleak, stripped back dread perfected by Wright, Laughner, Krauss and Taylor on a single slice of vinyl.

I tripped on my own once through both sides of "Unknown Pleasures". Between 2 and 3 in the morning in a bedsit off the Crow Road. An exercise in stamina, it was not nearly so claustrophobic as it might seem.

I listened to a World Service news bulletin late last night. The continuing kidnapping and abuse of children in northern Congo. The world is full of pus.

frankenslade said...

Along with these early Pere Ubu tracks I'd say that Neu!'s music set the stage for Joy Division. A lot of their instrumental tracks sound like they're only waiting for Ian Curtis to write lyrics and lay down his vocals.

ib said...

Interesting observation. Now that you make the case, I'm inclined to agree.

Neu! were stunning. La Dusseldorf, too.

I watched a tv segment a few evenings ago, in which Peter Hook professed that the song which got him started in music was Kenny Rogers' "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town". Great song. A faintly surprising confession.

andy said...

it's so great. I never saw a great article like this before. thanks for letting me know.