Punktfest 06 - Kristiansand, Norway - Day Three, August 26, 2006
The final day of Punktfest got off to a somewhat subdued start, but that doesn't mean the performances weren't at the same high level as the previous two days. Day three also had two of the festival's most memorable performancesand considering how memorable the entire festival has been, that's a definite achievement.
- Phonophani & Marius Watz
- Erik Honoré & Elsewhere
- Bernhard Gunter
- Nils Petter Molvaer & Helge Sten
- Sidsel Endresen & Jan Bang
- Pal "DJ Strangefruit" Nyhus, Knut Saevik & Peter Barden
- Arve Henriksen
Phonophani's performance, the first in the main theater, was a curious combination of ambient textures, minimalism and understated noise improv. For this special performance Espen Sommer Eide (who is Phonophani) collaborated with visual artist Marius Watz, bringing yet another innovative collaborative concept to a festival that seems to define new ones at almost every show. More than simply a visual presentation, Watz was an active participant, couched in darkness on stage along with Eide. Like all good improv, there were times where Watz's evolving images drove the music, other times where the music drove the images, and many others where the two worked in perfect synchronicity.
Both artists had the requisite laptops that have appeared at almost every Punkt performance, but Eide also utilized a wind-driven synthesizer to create melodic snippets that sometimes formed a minimal rhythmic pulse over which many textures were layered. Phoniphani's music could be quite dense at times, yet as cacophonic as it sometimes became, it could possess a strangely beautiful and hypnotic quality. There were assorted electronic squawks and burbles, but there were also rich washes of sound which ranged from eminently appealing to jaggedly sharp-edged.
Watching the images respond to the music, often slowing down or picking up right along the soundscapes, was a unique experienceas was watching the Eide do the same in reverse. And while the set ebbed and flowed in a continuous fashion, it had specific and logical breakpoints, most often revolving around Watz's shifts from three-dimensional cubes which looked like something out of an Escher painting to long stems with colorful discs at the top that seemed to shrink and grow with the music and large, somewhat amorphous shapes in vivid greens.
With the artists on stage in near-darkness, the clear goal was to have the audience pay attention to the visuals and integrate them with what they were hearing. Rarely ever applying anything like conventional harmony, melody or rhythms, but bearing occasional earmarks of all three, the performance was yet another example of how technology can be used to create something new that demands its audience to dispense with preconceptions of what music should be.
While Jan Bang has cropped up as a participant at more shows than one can count, his Punktfest partner, Erik Honoré, seems to work a little more behind the scenes, only on stage for some of the live remixes. But for the Alpha Room's first show of the day, he was featured with his group Elsewhere in an odd combination of folk tradition, technology and its own pop sensibility.
Along with Honoré, Elsewhere features singer Greta Aagre, whose voice at times recalled Maire Brennan from the Irish group Clannad. But Aagre also proved a flexible singer with a rich tone in her lower range, which worked well with music that required her to be delicate at times, powerful at others. Acoustic guitarist Jorgen Rief was a strong accompanist, fingerpicking intentionally during the more song-based sections, but equally capable of scratching strings, tapping the body and creating other unusual sounds that Honoré could sample and feed back to the trio.
If there's an underlying theme at Punktfest, it's that rules are made to be broken and musical styles are wide open to the application of contemporary sonic approaches. The trio's brief set began with Rief extracting all manner of odd sounds from his guitar, while Honoré sampled them, built loops and added his own washes of sound into something that was closer to free improv than song. Even when Aagre entered and things became more tuneful, there were still moments where the melodism would break down into freedom, only to return once more in a concerted way to the group's lyrical side.
Elsewhere's second tune had a more distinct pop vibe, but Honoré's deep bass sample, drum programming and live sampling of Aagre's voice made it pop music with its own flavor. And while some of Elsewhere's material more or less followed conventional pop/folk song form, there were times where the musicians dispensed with such conventions altogether and moved into the area of atmospherics. Perhaps best described as ambient folk, Elsewhere's performance demonstrated yet again that samplers and sound processors can be either cold technology, oras has been the case time and again over the past three dayspowerful tools to realize unequivocally new musical ends.