Punkt Festival 2009: Day 2, Kristiansand, Norway, September 3, 2009
Who better to remix Maja Ratkje than Sidsel Endresen? Endersen is, after all, a clear reference point for the younger Ratkje, although at this point Ratkje has evolved her own approach that's just as distinctive and noteworthy. Still, it seemed only right that it should be one singer remixing the othera potent pairing that suggests a true collaboration in real time as a wonderful prospect.
Endresenone of Punkt's most regular performers and a longtime musical partner with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré, with whom she took center stage for the remixfound her own way to Ratke's reference material, pushing and pulling the remix material with her own extended vocal techniques. Bang proved, once again, that rhythm can be found anywhere and everywhere. Despite the abstract nature of the source material, and Endresen's own outré approach to reinterpreting it, Bang was as kinetic as ever, moving to an inner beat, and expanding on the remix source material provided by Honoré.
Honoré has been working with Bang since their teen years, yet he remains as different a performer as can be. Bang seemed to be in constant motion, moving between headphones, adjusting knobs and clapping a 3/4 time pulse later in the remix; Honoré was almost completely static, with only his hands moving and the occasional slightest of smiles to indicate that he was onto something good.
Endresen once again demonstrated that in a freely improvised context, not playing is just as much an active decision as singing. Listening intently to Bang and Honor&233;, she laid out almost as much as she actually sang, making the moments when she did sing all the more significant.
Singer/guitarist/pianist Jarle Bernhoft's Ceramik City Chronicles (Universal, 2008) documented the emergence of a young Norwegian singer/songwriter with a strong voice and soulful delivery that BBC Radio's Fiona Talkingtonanother Punkt regular who was invited this year to be the festival's presenterdescribed as "making you feel that he is singing for you, and you alone." With strong roots in American soul and R&B, especially that of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, his record is a group effort. As fine as Ceramik City Chronicles is, however, in performance he's even more impressive. Without a band, he uses sampling/looping technology to turn one voice, one piano and a couple of acoustic guitars into a true one man band.
Plenty of artists use looping, but few use it as the live equivalent of studio multi-tracking the way Bernhoft does. With material culled from Ceramik City Chronices, his ability to create multiple layers of harmony vocals, rhythm guitar parts, percussion (created either by playing the back of an acoustic guitar like a drum, clapping his hands or snapping his fingers) and, sometimes, even quadrupling single note guitar lines to create impossibly rich voicings was certainly impressive enough. His skill at triggering these various components at will, and in various combinations throughout his songs, would have been unbelievable were it not all happening in plain sight.
And yet, Bernhoft's one man band is far from gimmick or schtick. Many guitarists who double on bass don't understand the difference between the two, but Bernhoft did, creating deep grooves that were sometimes looped, other times played together with rhythm guitar parts on his hybrid, much as Charlie Hunter does; but Hunter doesn't sing, and Bernhoft's multi-tasking was another nearly mindboggling talent. He was constantly shifting between triggering just-created loops, creating new layers of vocals over which he could soar with a guitar solo, piano solo or more vocal acrobatics and mixing and matching everything that he'd built to create songs that were as rich in arrangement and energy as anything a "real" band could do.
Beyond Bernhoft's inestimable skill as a singer, instrumentalist and incredible multi-tasker/multi-tracker, his songs are absolutely entertaining, and in complete contrast with the more experimental music from earlier in the evening. The thematic link was his natural use of technology to expand the possibilities of a single performer, but with a large and appreciative crowd, Bernhoft's strength as feel-good entertainer was something that should garner him similarly enthusiastic fans, not just in Norway but internationally as well. It was a little odd to hear him singing in English without a trace of accent, and then speak to the audience in Norwegian between tunes. Still, even without knowing what he was saying, his relaxed, lighthearted and energetic bond with the audience was palpable.
It was a groove-happy hour of compelling soul/pop, delivered by an artist who has great potential. All too often a solo performance of a group album leaves the feeling that it was a good show, but would have been better with a full band. While a live performance with interacting players would certainly bring a different kind of life to Bernhoft's music, there was no missing anything in this performance.