Punktfest 06 - Kristiansand, Norway - Day Three, August 26, 2006
Throughout the festival, turntablist Pal "DJ Strangefruit" Nyhus has been closing out the nights at a club around the corner from the Agder Teater. His work in Nils Petter Molvaer's group has helped redefine what a turntablist can do. So it was fitting that he bring his Mungolian Jetset duo with Knut Saevik to the Alpha Room, along with drummer Peter Barden (from Hanne Hukkelberg and Mari Boine's groups of the previous night, but in a more purely electronic capacity), to do the live remix of the double bill that had just finished.
It was one of the festival's best remixes, and evidence that while studio remixes are often considered relatively safe affairs, live remixes can be as risky and interactive as any other form of improvisation, requiring the same amount of intuition and trust. Live remixes demand that everyone involved on stage listennot just to the material that's been sampled, but to each other as well, so they can respond as a unit and create something different but respectful of its source.
The trio of Nyhus, Saevik and Barden began relatively literally with Endresen's voice, but as the twenty-minute segment wore on, they began to introduce aspects of the Molvaer/Sten duo, applying more defined beats and ambient washes. Creating his own vocal samples to stagger with Endresen and simultaneously managing to introduce additional textures from his turntables, Nyhus's efforts helped gradually transform the end result into something nearly unrecognizable from its early beginnings. If improvisation is defined as in-the-moment spontaneous creation, then there's no question that the live remixes at Punktfest fit that definition, and one can only imagine how the concept will evolve in future years.
Trumpeter Arve Henriksen has evolved his own sound that, like Molvaer, has its roots in the work of Jon Hassell. But both he and Molvaer have taken Hassell's initial seed and moved it in different directions. While Henriksen has been no stranger to the concept of applying technology to his instrument, in recent times he's returned to a more acoustic approach. Still, that doesn't mean he's stopped experimenting, as his set at the main theater amply demonstrated. Best known for a tone that's more shakuhachi than traditional trumpet, Henriksen may have put away his processing gear but, by replacing his trumpet mouthpiece with a saxophone one, he's continued to search for new ways to expand the range and sound of his instrument.
Evolving the concept of his most recent record, Chiaroscuro (Rune Grammofon, 2004), Henriksen augmented the trio from that recordfeaturing Bang and drummer Audun Kleivewith pianist/keyboardist Stale Storlokken (a member of Supersilent, percussionist Thomas Stronen's Humcrush duo and Terje Rypdal's recent Vossabrygg project). The result was a highlight of a festival filled with highlights, and one of its most profound and moving performances.
While Henriksen was acoustic, Storlokken's synth and Bang's live sampling meant that richer electronic soundscapes were possible. But the restraint of the players, allowing for plenty of space and an approach that saw the group periodically break down into smaller subsets, created an atmosphere where the interaction could be free or structured. Though it drew from moving melodies from Chiaroscuro, the set was nevertheless open-ended. Given a fundamental understatement, seamless shifts between more angular free play and haunting melodies were often the result of everyone picking up on the slightest suggestion.
While individual voices dominated at various points and the overall conception was clearly Henriksen's, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the performance was its sheer democracy. There are those who believe that it's not possible to have a leaderless group, and this is undeniably Henriksen's project. But he's no greater participant than anyone else, and it's clear that the collective trust he and his partners have been built over time allows them to take risks at any point with complete assurance that the entire ensemble will ultimately speak with a single voice.
for the most part, Bang's contributions were considerably more subtle than in other collaborations during the festival. Kleive, like Bill Bruford the previous night, can be a muscular player and lay down a firm backbeat, as he did towards the end of the set. But he was just as capable of a more integrated orchestral approach, andon the rare occasion where he was the sole voicea melodic one as well.
Moving from darkness to light more than once during the set, Henriksenwho is in increasing demand these days, especially on ECM projects with keyboardist Jon Balke, saxophonist Trygve Seim and pianist Christian Wallumrodhas a new album in the works, and if this performance was any indication, it will be well worth checking out.