‘Irene:’ New Pere Ubu video is eerie and gorgeous
09:47 am

The adventurous, impressive, and long-surviving art rock band Pere Ubu have released well over a dozen albums, few of which sound overmuch like each other, all of which sound like Pere Ubu. Their last, Lady From Shanghai, was an especially big leap, laden with bold electronics experiments and even odder arrangements than Ubu’s usual, and it’s just glorious.

Recently, the band announced the forthcoming release of its 15th studio LP, Carnival of Souls. It’s tempting to assume that this might be an album about the disquietingly atmospheric 1962 Herk Harvey film Carnival of Souls, as the band did a live underscore to the film just last summer, and a video from the album, “Road to Utah,” is made up of clips from that movie, a movie which in fact takes place on the road. To Utah.

But it’s folly, even with a ton of evidence like that in your corner, to think that one can jump to that kind of easy conclusion with regard to a band that copped its name from a cagey absurdist like Alfred Jarry. With Ubu, the “obvious” should rarely be taken at face value. Per the band’s founder and singer David Thomas on

The album is not about the movie. The album is ‘about’ a complex sensual response to living in a world overrun by monkeys and strippers who tickle your ears, cajole you to join in with their cavorting and then become vindictive when you decline. I got rid of my TV because I don’t want them in my house. I got rid of my phone because I don’t want them calling me. So if you understand that and add in several more keyframes and make at least two more intuitive jumps, then you can see what role the movie has as ambient background noise - in the same way that sun shining through the trees along the Yellowstone River has as a reference point to Kerouac’s ‘On The Road.’

Since that’s only so illuminating, I reached out to Ubu’s longtime drummer, Steven Mehlman, for clarification on what the new music may have to do with the film:

The answer is yes and no. Yes, some of the music is based on the music we did for the live soundtrack. The tour we did after that was with a portion of our expanded lineup and we started refining some of those songs, and roughly half of each show was improvised (and recorded) and led to the other half of the album. One song is straight from the live recordings.

So there you have it. The other video from the album, due in September, is for “Irene,” a song that features beautiful solo work from the band’s newest member, clarinetist Darryl Boon. It’s a simple, surreal video, the focus of which is a mask, as eerie and haunting as the song itself, made by the Brighton-based puppeteer Daisy Jordan, founder of Barely Human Puppets.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Pere Ubu is like a cup!’ insists David Thomas
‘Self-expression is evil’: the mind-boggling beauty of David Thomas and Two Pale Boys
Pere Ubu’s David Thomas is pissed off about band member visa approval rigamarole

Posted by Ron Kretsch
09:47 am
Herk Harvey’s ‘Carnival of Souls’

It reads like the synopsis for a Phil Alden Robinson

This is what happened to Herk Harvey, who happened on the Saltair Pavilion on the south shore of Salt Lake, when driving back from California, in the early 1960s. Herk worked as a director for Centron Films, America's leading producers of industrial and educational movies, and he was inspired by Saltair's eerie, haunted appearance. Harvey devised a scenario, and with help from colleagues at Centron, money form his girlfriend, a budget of $33,000, an unknown cast, and three weeks to film, he made The Carnival of Souls. It was a kismet moment, as Harvey returned to his work at Centron, the cast continued with their own lives, and the film’s star, Candace Hilligoss, only made one other film.

Saltair was the Coney island of the West, opened in 1893, a large structure with Moorish domes, leading on to a pier:

The girth of the resort rested on over 2,000 pylons, driven into the bed along the lakeshore. Many of the original posts can still be seen today, over a hundred years after the resort’s initial construction.

With many resorts of unseemly repute dotting the Salt Lake shoreline, the predominant Mormon population of the Salt Lake Valley called for a retreat that matched their conservative standards; the Great Saltair answered their call. Mormon couples could visit Saltair by taking a short train ride and dance the night away without becoming victims of indecorous rumors. This was due to the open and frequent supervision of activities at Saltair by prominent members of the Mormon Church. The Mormon Church, however, suffered some criticism for the sale of coffee and tea—both substances prohibited by church doctrine—and for opening the resort on Sundays.

Owners of Saltair enjoyed the popularity of the Western resort. From the beginning, the lake retreat was intended to be a counterpart to Coney Island. Its pylon bridge led thousands of patrons through its gigantic doors to countless days of lounging and swimming and countless nights of dancing and romance. Being one of the first amusement parks in America, it became the most popular family destination west of New York.

Fire damaged the resort twice in 1925 and again in 1931, this time causing $100,000 worth of damage. Like everywhere else in the 1930s, the Depression took its toll, as did the war, which led the venue to close in the 1950s, leaving its massive decaying structure, disused rail tracks, and rollercaoster. No wonder Herk Harvey was inspired:

This was the Saltair I knew firsthand… the Saltair of the schlock horror movie classic Carnival of Souls..rotting wood, broken glass, collapsed staircases… and always, the smell of the lake, the stganation of the swimming pool dredged years earlier, littered with half-submerged dodge-‘em cars.

Saltair lay deserted for years, but reopened as a music venue in 2005.

As for Herk Harvey’s The Carnival of Souls? Well, what was intended as a low-budget B-movie is now rightly considered a classic of gothic-horror cinema. So, next time you pass a location that gives you goose-bumped inspiration, just remember Harvey and imagine what you can do.

Bonus clip of Saltair, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
11:51 am