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Live Reviews

Punkt Festival 2008: Day 3-3

By Published: September 9, 2008
Live remix: J. Peter Schwalm and Tim Harries

Following a show like Jon Hassell's would be tough for anyone, but another strength of Punkt is the ability of its Artistic Directors, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, to pick the right people to do the Live Remixes. Composer/producer J. Peter Schwalm, whose Day Two performance at Punkt 08 was another festival highlight, was the ideal choice as his own sensibilities are not completely removed from where Hassell is, but equally there are plenty of differences to suggest that he'd be able to find new ways to interpret and mould Hassell's source material.

Bringing along bassist Tim Harries for the remix turned out to be one of the most inspired decisions by any artist leading a Live Remix in 2008. Harries' own resume goes back to working in British drummer Bill Bruford's Earthworks with Django Bates and Iain Ballamy from the late '80s through to the early '90s, as well as occasional dates with the Anglo/Norwegian collective Food. With Schwalm taking snippets of Hassell's rich trumpet and creating multiple loops and multiple vertical harmonies, it left Harries the freedom to do exactly what he wanted.

What he wanted was to employ prepared techniques with his electric bass guitar, including using clips to hold down notes, playing the instrument on his lap so he could achieve certain harmonics that he'd not have been able to manage otherwise, and detunung/retuning strings to create shifting notes that, much like bassist Peter Freeman in Maarifa Street, went for the gut; a deep visceral texture that grounded some of Schwalm's more ethereal work.


Punkt 08 / J. Peter Schwalm / Tim Harries

J. Peter Schwalm and Tim Harries

It's no surprise that Bang and Honoré have brought Schwalm back to the festival on more than one occasion. His ability to find melodic fragments, and grab small snippets from them and loop them on the fly and in real time was remarkable. Schwalm proved, in his improvisational ability to take a sound source, manipulate it and turn it into something different through split-second decisions and clear intuition, that what he uses to create his music—unorthodox as it is, being technology that, in other hands, is nothing more than a tool with a purpose—really is an instrument, just as Bang, Honoré and DJ Strangefruit have been doing for many years.

Introducing more fervent pulse on occasion, Schwalm and Harries Honoréd the spirit of Hassell's music, even as they turned away from some of its core premises, for one of the most successful remixes of Punkt 08.

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Punkt 08 Wrap-Up

As Punkt 08 wraps up, the lasting impression is one of a festival that manages to face off against adversity and still manage to come out better than the previous year. The programming may have been smaller but the devotion to quality in all areas—a cornerstone of the festival along with Live Remix since the very beginning—has not only been retained, it's been improved. From the modernistic edge of the set design for J. Peter Schwalm's show with Sophie Clemens to the Spartan look of Nik Bartch's Ronin performance, the equally striking and contemporary look of Hakon Kornstad's solo show and the dark, mysterious look of Jon Hassell's Maarifa Street closer, the look, sound and feel of the shows in the Agder Theatre couldn't have been improved upon.

The festival has retained the intimacy and experimental nature of its Live Remixes in the Alpha Room— and while visually they were inherently more limited, they were presented in a way that made the audience feel a part of the experiment. With Brian Eno and Jon Hassell's multi-disciplinary installations, Punkt continues to find new ways to mix seemingly disparate artistic pursuits. The programming is a perfect mix of established names, up-and-comers and barely emerging artists, with the three-band Punkt Elope another highlight of the 2008 festival. And with the concurrent release of Live Remixes Vol. 1 (Jazzland, 2008), it's possible for those not able to make the trek to Kristiansand to experience the magic of its live remixes.

Punkt / Sidsel Endresen / Jon Hassell The openness of the festival not only encourages interaction between fans, artists and media, it breaks down barriers completely, allowing people—especially those who return year after year—to bond and develop friendships that extend beyond the confines of the festival. And while so much attention is paid to the people who deliver the direct goods, the relaxed and friendly vibe of Punkt is maintained by everyone from Chairman of the Board Arne Chr. Bang to Media representatives Camilla Nordahl, Kjell Bentsen, Oyvind Holthe and Monica Bang to all the people who drive artists and other guests of the festival from place-to- place. The list is large, but it's an organization that clearly love and is committed to what it does.

Where can Punkt go from here? The possibilities are limitless, the opportunities boundless. As Punkt 08 wraps up, Bang and Honoré are already thinking about where to take the festival next. While hoping that next year will continue the steady path of growth that the festival has maintained for four years would be the right idea, history has proven that there's little room for doubt that Punkt 09 will continue to evidence innovation, presenting fresh viewpoints to ensure a festival like no other, where the boundaries of music are pushed, pulled and, ultimately, dissolved. Visit Splashgirl, Arve Henrkisen, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, Rafael Toral, Hakon Kornstad, J. Peter Schwalm, Jon Hassell, and Punkt Festival on the web.

Photo Credits

Wibutee at Punkt 06: John Kelman

All Other Photos: Jan Hangeland (also at MySpace)

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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