Punkt Festival 2009: Day 1, Kristiansand, Norway, September 2, 2009
Punkt Elope is like a pre-festival mini-festival, and an opportunity to experience some of Norway's young talent on the ascendancy. Last year's performance by Lama was both a highlight and precursor to the group's debut, Guidebook to Lamaland (Spoon Train, 2008). For the 2009 edition of Punkt Elopeagain produced by Splashgirl pianist Andreas Stensland Løweonly Navyelectre is recorded. But whereas The Mourning (Shipwreckods, 2008) was essentially a solo effort by Navyelectre alter-ego Jonas Howden Sjøvaag, live it became a quartet featuring two members of Mattis Myrland & The Grand Trunk Road Ensemble, as well as keyboardist Andreas Ulvo, a member of trumpeter Mathias Eick's quartet, heard at Mai Jazz 2008 in Stavanger, Norway.
Mattis Myrland, Wenche Losnegård, Jo Berger Myhre, Jan Martin Smørdal
Myrland, a singer/songwriter with a distinctive predilection for late-1960s and earl-1970s American singer/songwriters including Leonard Cohen and Crosby, Stills & Nash, opened the evening with a set of appealing original music, focusing on the his own unaffected but clearly affecting voice, and those of banjoist/vocalist Hans Martin Austestad and harmonium player/vocalist Wenche Losnegård. With a sextet also including drummer/sampler Freddy Wike, bassist/baritone guitarist Jo Berger Myhre and guitarist Jan Martin Smørdal, there was plenty of available instrumentation to deliver music ranging from acoustic and sweet to electric and hard-edged.
Curious samples of even richer vocal harmonies, in addition to more jagged textures, sometimes underscored a group sound that was, at times, spare and ethereal, but elsewhere became dense and propulsive. Myrland's direct yet poetic bent was well supported, most notably by Smørdal, who added a touch of Bill Frisell-like idiosyncrasy to the music, with distinctive voicings and resonant, sustaining chords that oscillated in and around the music. Avoiding the prerequisite rhythm section sound, Myhre's baritone guitar work often took center stage instrumentally, even as Myrland's grungy, distorted acoustic guitar sounded more garage band than folk troubadour; still, in a strange way the group's confluence of seemingly disparate and incongruous textures came together in an attractive fashion and worked.
Metamorphic violinist Sebastian Gruchot
Metamorphic took the music in another direction entirely. Violinist Sebastian Gruchot and Norwegian keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Ole-Bjørn Talstad delivered an improvised set that evoked vast, otherworldly landscapes, turned into concrete visions by visual artist Igor Molenda, who projected graphics and intriguing motion picture images onto a screen behind the musicians.
With a vast array of effects and real-time sampling, Gruchot and Talstad performed two lengthy free improvisations that drew on a considerable breadth of references, most notable Middle Eastern, with Gruchot's electric violin sometimes assuming the more vocal delivery of the Persian ney. But an equal part of Metamorphic's sound was its undercurrent of electronic sounds, from looped beats that were often no more than a plucked and muted violin string, to harsher ambiences and soft, hypnotic washes. Both improvs revolved around relatively simple premisesa simple two-chord pattern here, a two-bar motif therebut it was the duo's trance-inducing sonics that, with eyes closed, created images from an imaginary film but, with eyes open, seemed to be the perfect soundtrack for Molenda's sometimes gradual, other times dramatically shifting images.
Philco Fiction: Bjarne Christian Gustavsen, Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød
Turid Alida Solberg
As intriguing as the first two sets were, Philco Fiction turned out to be a disappointment. In contrast to Mattis Myrland's honest delivery and music that was compelling in its unassuming simplicity, Philco Fiction's Turid Alida Solberg was all about affect, every move seemingly calculated and every vocal inflection equally considered. This kind of approach can work if you're Björk and have the imagination to back it up; but with the exception of Andreas Lønmo Knudsrød's straightforward but unshakable drumming, there was little to truly grasp onto.