Punkt 07 - Kristiansand, Norway - Day Two, August 30, 2007
Punkt may be largely about improvisation and the interaction of artists known and unknown to each other, but it's also about intrepid experimentation with various media and song forms. Swedish composer/multi- instrumentalist/singer Hans Appelquist unveiled his latest project, Naima at Punkt; a multi-media performance that combined images, sampled voices, and layers of multi-tracked music that brought together an indie rock (and, at times, even slightly progressive rock) sensibility with a quirky vaudeville vibe and more. The title character is, in Appelquist's words, "...an entity with a pelican's head who one had endless confidence in and who one could ask for advice every time one did not know what to do."
While the majority of the material was, by necessity, pre-recorded, Appelquist moved from keyboard to guitar, sometimes singing, other times leaving it to his existing tracks. He created, then commanded, a natural but charismatic stage throughout the set, an evocative combination of the absurd and the heartfelt a poignant tale of the search for liberation from responsibility but, ultimately, the message that "obligation is a burden that can't be shared," even as it places the bad things in life in context with the good. Using everything from an on-screen internet chat to animation and arresting and rapidly shifting visual images, Appelquist spun his tale of Naima, who delivers her message directly at times, but equally can be something of an enigma.
The music was an equal mix of the serious and the droll, the lighthearted and the significant, with Appelquist's visual playing and vocal delivery in perfect harmony. Considering the number of audio and visual cues he was working with, his ability to inject temporal elasticity in an organic way made the performance, and the story, all the more human.
Some material isn't ripe for remix, and sometimes that's okay. Appelquist's performance was undeniably strong, and so, too, was the first encounter between trumpeter/Nu Jazz progenitor Nils Petter Molvær and American guitarist Ryan Francesco. But the two performances felt less connected in the remix, with Molvær and Francesco seemingly going their own way, largely independent of the sampled material from Appelquist's set. In the end, however, that was by no means a bad thing.
Francesco is a member of Joanna Newsom's band, a group that fuses Appalachian folk music with indie rock. Here he was a spare foil for Molvær, working closely to support and sometimes drive the trumpeter's snakelike lines and characteristically unusual effects. Like his performance at Kick during the pre-festival opening activities, Molvær is clearly creating new textures to expand upon his already rich vernacular.
The remix began in ambient territory, with brief, sharp bursts that disrupted the calm as the music evolved into a more beat-driven space. Still, the haunting beauty of Molvær's lines and Francesco's tasteful and interactive work kept the thirty-minute remix on the gentler side, ending on a humorous note as the end of the remix was applause from the Appelquist performancea clear signal that it was time for the audience in the Alpha Room to do the same. A fine way to end a strong first day of programming at Punkt.
Performances: Solveig Sletthjell/Slow Motion Quintet, Trio Mediæval, Kammerflimer Kollektief, Sweet Billy Pilgrim.
Live remixes: Scanner/David Rothenberg, Erik Honoré/Nils. Chr. Moe-Repstad, Jan Bang/Eivind Aarset/DJ Strangefruit, Sidsel Endresen/Jan Bang/Erik Honoré.
Visit Huntsville, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Joanna MacGregor, Jan Bang, Michiyo Yagi, Huw Warren, June Tabor, Iain Ballamy, J. Peter Schwalm, Nils Petter Molvaer and Punkt Festival on the web.