Tom Ludvigson and Gianmarco Liguori: Espiritu Santo Variations (Sarang Bang)

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Tom Ludvigson and Gianmarco Liguori: Espiritu Santo Variations (Sarang Bang)
The island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu is something of a tourist destination these days, notably for divers who can enjoy the clear waters and abundant tropical marine life.

But while it boasts a beautiful name (Holy Spirit or, more loosely, sacred spirit), it wasn't on many outsiders' radar in the mid Seventies when the population of the islands in the archipelago was no more than 90,000.

That was when Auckland-based musician/producer and video artist Tom Ludvigson spent time in the remote highlands of ES among the local tribespeople.

The kleva there were spiritual healers and Ludvigson wrote field notes about them and his experiences which, about five years ago, producer/musician and fellow traveller in the band Salon Kingsadore, Gianmarco Liguori read.

Both Ludvigson and Liguori have considerable prior form in improvised music (among their collective credits Bluespeak, Trip to the Moon, Salon Kingsadore, Murray McNabb groups and more).

Tsantohis album – 100 limited edition vinyl copies in hand-printed covers – takes its inspiration from the ES/kleva experience in rhythmic, totemic sounds from drum machines, percussive synths and electronica, and acoustic piano.

Although not overtly akin to the so-called "ethno-forgeries" of Can or Jon Hassell's Fourth World Music projects, this quietly hypnotic music – especially on the first side with Kastom Musik and Mollusc Respiration – suggest a space-time continuum between an ancient and unknowable past and the present day world of electro-glitch and beats.

It is hypnotically engaging, subtle and a real journey to be taken.

If that first side seems anchored by the past, the highly visual Bleak Totem which opens the second – with processed vocals and more aggressive electronica – thrusts the listener into an ethno-future of eerie spatial constructs and an inner world of disembodied voices and spirits which the kleva can apparently evoke.

It's perhaps a listening journey best made in darkness.

The final lengthy piece Embryonic Shell Structures pushes further into that future of squirreling synths, a throbbing pulse and surging pan-Pacific/Melanesia percussion. The short acoustic piano passages towards the end throws in another time dimension, suggesting something like a bedraggled Klaus Kinski in a remote hut in those highlands before a white light of kleva-invoked spirits envelopes him.

This is improvised cinematic music on every level, evocative and full of allusive and elusive images.

Espiritu Santo Variations is yet another challenging album from the Sarang Bang label which has previously brought us albums under Liguori's name, by Salon Kingsadore, Superturtle and many out-there albums by the late Murray McNabb.

At some level this may have been a vanity project, but it resonates far beyond an indulgence and, that first side especially, is very hard to shake off.

Sarang Bang Records can be found here and this album can be bought digitally also. The label is also currently offering a remarkably good deal of all 19 Sarang Bang albums in a digital download package.

Elsewhere has written about many of them starting here.

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