If there's any downside to Norway's intrepid Punkt Fest, it's the inherently restricted audience capable of participating in its profound experience. While performances from artists spanning the entire musical spectrum are almost always captivating, it's Punkt's premise of following each show with a Live Remix, where other musicians interact with radical manipulations of the music just heard. The musical laboratory of the Alpha Room, where the Live Remixes take place, is limited to fewer than 300 people, resulting in a wealth of experiments heard by a very limited group of people.
Until now. While Crime Scenes (Jazzland, 2006) was a studio collaboration between festival artistic co-directors Jan Bang and Erik Honore and some of the festival's usual suspects, Punkt Live Remixes Vol. 1 finally allows those unable to attend Punkt an opportunity to hear what all the fuss is about. Sifting through three years of remixes, Bang and Honore have chosen two that not only best embody the spirit of Punkt, but feature two of its most constant companionsNorwegian vocalist Sidsel Endresen and American trumpeter Jon Hassell, the latter without whom Punkt would either not exist or, at the very least, would be an entirely different beast.
Endresen's remarkable path towards a vocal style that, while still incorporating strong melody at times, is more about turning the human voice into a broad-scoped orchestral instrument, has been well documented on albums including One (Sofa, 2007). But here, working in concert with Bang and Honore to reevaluate Sweet Billy Pilgrim's moving 2007 performance, Endresen begins with a series of vocalizations that, were it not for the fact that she begins completely alone, would seem impossible coming from a single, unprocessed human voice.
Her empathic interaction with Bang and Honore begins slowly, with Endresen gradually echoing one of Sweet Billy Pilgrim's lines as well as a haunting line of her own ("I don't want to be alone in here"). The music moves gradually from oblique abstraction into gently rhythmic ambient territory, all the more remarkable for there being absolutely no post-productionwhat is heard is exactly what went down.
Hassell's remix, with Bang, Honore, and percussionist Audun Kleive, uses a performance by Merriwinkle as its sourceEndresen, keyboardist Christian Wallumrod, and sonic manipulator Helge Sten. Hassell's dark, sensual tonethe clear reference point for Nils Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksenmakes Live Remixes an even greater endorsement of Endresen, as well as Hassell's unmistakable stamp on the festival's overarching aesthetic. Having just closed out Punkt 08 with an outstanding Maarifa Street performance, Hassell's 2005 remix is a brooding exploration of head and heart that embodies Punkt's "anything is possible" tenet.
Bang and Honore have chosen the ideal remixes to spread the word of Punkt beyond Kristiansand's small borders. Live Remixes Vol. 1's 55 minutes speak volumes about a belief in music without boundaries from visionaries in fearless pursuit of music's infinite possibilities.
Visit Punkt, Sidsel Endresen and Jon Hassell on the web.
Personnel: Sidsel Endresen: voice (1, 2); Jon Hassell: trumpet (3, 4); Audun Kleive: percussion (3, 4); Jan Bang: live sampling, programming (1,2); Erik Honore: live sampling, programming (1,2).