|Shining a light on Sarang Bang|
By Richard Thorne from New Zealand Musician Magazine
The engaging instrumental music of Auckland’s Salon Kingsadore has been variously tagged on the basis of their two albums to date. 2004’s self-titled outing introduced them as a five-piece with dual lead guitars. It attracted a ‘psychedelic surf jazz’ label, which has stuck despite the 2006 follow up ‘Hotel Azteca’ being rather different. This May will see ‘Mountain Rescue’, another step in the Salon Kingsadore evolutionary chain, released on Sarang Bang Records which is guitarist Gianmarco Liguori’s label. Just a few months back Liguori released his own second experimental instrumental album titled ‘Ancient Flight Text’,
Richard Thorne talked with him about both projects.
Everything they played was pretty much one-take stuff. It was either live with me and Kim, or me and Murray. I definitely wanted to preserve a live feel in the music so I didn’t want it to be rehearsed, I wanted that spark of creativity to be there, that initial moment where something was happening.”
Of course with such accomplished musicians it’s a challenge for the listener to guess where the ordained and the spontaneous might intersect. Although created in a deliberately ad hoc kind of fashion, the eight tracks do seem to paint coherent pictures and Liguori confirms he typically composes to a narrative.
“Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve never been into lyrics for some reason, never into writing songs so much, but I like to describe places I’ve been – or never been – places that don’t exist or may have existed at some time in history. It’s definitely quite spiritual music in a sense. I would like my music to sort of unlock parts of people’s minds that they haven’t necessarily explored yet, to take them to places they didn’t know about…
“I never know how tracks are going to sound until they are finished. Bronze Frog for example was just thousands of layers of tracks and could have gone anywhere basically. That took us a couple of days to work through, there was so much stuff recorded for it. I have a basic idea of where a song is going but the whole process [causes] changes and that’s how I like to work.
“I was creating a different context for these jazz musicians of a different generation. What would happen if I got these really experienced musicians to get involved in my compositions?”
He’s no doubt happy with the answer as, it seems are his more seasoned collaborators who have since agreed to play some live performances together over the coming months. Ligouri now has two bands on the go.
Salon Kingsadore originally got together back in 2000 to write music to a stage play for a mutual friend, and kept on writing cinematic instrumental music simply because they found that there was plenty of room to explore in that arena. Vocals are seen as unnecessary, Salon Kingsadore preferring that their music take the listener on a journey that isn't predetermined by a set of lyrics.
That big soundtrack coup has yet to happen but various television series from both side of the Tasman have taken advantage of their jazz-founded grooves and Kiwi FM has been employing the band’s music hourly on its weather bulletins.
First a five-piece, with Matt Sandford on drums, Hayden Sinclair bass, Billy Squire playing Fender Rhodes and Johnny Guy Howell sharing lead guitar, by the second (2006) album Howell and Sandford had left and Chris Dawson was drumming. For their upcoming third, ‘Mountain Rescue’, Steven Tait is on drums but the other three remain a constant. Together they write, record and perform instrumental pop/jazz. That doesn’t really cover it well enough but Liguori admits that the band have themselves always struggled to define where they fit.
“It’s a funny band, there’s no leader. We all have our own separate projects, coming from different angles, but somehow we have found some common ground and it works. Maybe that’s a good thing that we can’t be pinned to a genre.
“This (‘Mountain Rescue’) is our third album and each one we have redefined ourselves. The first we had two guitarists and it was more a dual lead sound. It was little more pop-oriented and the second album stretched out a bit more. We lost our other guitarist, got a new drummer and a lot more jazz influence. The third album has a new drummer who has been with us since the last album was out, it will be a summing up of what we’ve done so far. Brian Smith guests on sax and flute, so there is definitely a jazz influence. It’s a lot more raw in places, a lot of the songs we recorded in rehearsals and never intended releasing, but looking back decided we could. A lot of tunes are up-tempo, frantic, so it’s quite different.”
The title of the second track, Jan Hammer’s Garage may well give a clue to some, although it is far from the most frenetic of the 13 tracks. Typically for such critically appreciated, independent local releases, the albums sell in barely okay numbers here, but do find a more active market in countries like Germany and USA.
Sarang Bang is Gianmarco Liguori’s label, with assistance from Sinclair in running the website and “technical things”. Liguori started it in 1996 in order to release his own music and now with various vinyl singles, compilations, friends’ projects and things like that ‘Mountain Rescue’ is the 21st title in the catalogue.
Liguouri has adopted the description ‘Specialists in the Psychological and Physiological Applications of Music’ for the label, an allusion to the sort of functional music that might be used in a supermarket or office.
Vinyl releases are a regular theme (Sarang Bang released an album-plus-7” pressed in the Czech Republic by recording engineer Darren McShane and his band Superturtle last year), but surprisingly given the relatively low sales volumes (typically at best measured in hundreds) digital releases haven’t yet been embraced. Liguouri says he has always been into the physical aspect to “anchor the music down so people can hold it in some way”. He has designed the covers, artwork and posters for many of the label’s releases and with the use of devices like the short stories found on his own releases clearly believes that the musical experience should go well beyond simply listening to a digital file. No surprise to learn that he would like to hook up with a like-minded director and work on film projects.