Punkt 2012: Kristiansand, Norway, September 6-8, 2012
While his presentation appeared to be British, it turned out that EBE OKE was, in fact, an American, born in the Deep South, although he now makes London his home. Eno's enigmatic description of OKE as someone who'd "heard of pop music but never actually heard it and so had to invent it for himself" was born out, to some extent, by a set heavy on a gentle kind of minor-keyed melancholy, and equally weighed down by a stage presentation that was, at times, perhaps a little too precious for its own good.
As the group took to the stage, performance artist Nissa Nishikawa wandered the stage, dropping what might have been flower petals on the floor. OKE's band, which included a violinist, cellist and electronics artist, evoked soft, otherworldly landscapes, while OKE split his time between a piano, stage right, and center stage, where he delivered his lyrics with, at times, a little too much theatrical consideration. A soft, androgynous voice, a curious predilection for specific imagery and ideas (birds being a big one), and a set that was heavy on presentation and a little lighter on substance, OKE's group did, however, create a curious and strangely comforting kind of floating stasis that somehow took the large Kilden Theatre and made it feel almost painfully intimate.
But if OKE and his group were a little too serious for their own goodNishikawa, at one point, painting concentric circles on a small gongthere was still something strangely compelling about the set; reason, perhaps, why not one, but two ex-Roxy Music alums Eno and guitarist Phil Manzanerahave taken interest in OKE.
September 5 Live Remix: NLE Students / J. Peter Schwalm
In 2011, J. Peter Schwalm participated in a weeklong workshop with members of the Nordic Live Electronics Network, culminating in a Punkt Live Remix. This year he was back doing the same thing, but when it came to the actual live remix, there was a difference. Speaking with Schwalm before the evening began, he spoke of being more active as a director in the 2011 live remix, and that this year he was going to assume more of a background role, playing some piano and letting the students take the reinsno shortage of trust, then, in this group of seven students, including, from Denmark, Stig Sylvest Hansen (drums, laptop) and Sofie Christiansen (vocals, electronics); from Sweden, David Sabel (electronics) and Niklas Sjösvärd (electronics and monotribe drone test); and, from Norway, Martin Skrebergene (bass, electronics) and Sindre Gjærum Hansen (vocals, drums, laptop). "It's about instincts," he said, "not about style."
And Schwalm did, indeed, leave the group of students largely on its own to direct the remix of EBE OKE. If the results were a tad overzealous and considerably longer than necessary, it was still exactly this opportunity to participate in Punkt's laboratory-like live remix that allowed the students to attempt things that sometimes failed and sometimes succeeded. Christiansen adopted greater extremes as the set progressed, the beginnings of an emergent voice that was much freer and more abstract than might be expected from such a young singer. As the remix intensified, she moved into near- primal yells, with Gjærum Hansen finally joining in, initially with some call-and-response, but ultimately taking the lead.
Barring Three Trapped Tigers' show the previous night, this was certainly the most aggressive performance of the festival so far, driven hard by drummer Sylvest Hansen. There were times when, as the remix dissolved into the amorphous, it seemed like it might be the right moment to end, but as Hansen then kicked in with another rock pulse, the entire group rallied. Not necessarily the right decision, but the purpose of this remix was to give the students a live opportunity to try things and see what worked and what didn't. And with more hits than misses, this year's NLE certainly proved to include a number of promising young students.
September 5 Concert: müm
A little bit of Björk, a tad more of Sigur Rós and a whole lot more of something else more direct and melodic is the easiest way to describe Iceland's múm. That the band has been together for 15 years in some form or another is a little hard to believe, given its youthful appearance. While its first full-length record, 2000's Yesterday Was DramaticToday is OK (TMT/Thule), was a largely instrumental excursion informed by groups like Aphex Twin, the group that performed at Punkt was more song- and lyric-based, and if the septet's tendency was towards slow tempos, it was as self- effacing as Three Trapped Tigers when, after the first song, guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Gunnar Örn Tynes introduced the set, quipping, "We're going to play all our songs extra fast."
Instrumentally diversealong with various acoustic and electric guitars, piano, keyboards and electronics, the group featured cello, ukulele and melodicamüm, in the most unassuming way possible, delivered one of the festival's most idiosyncratic sets. With a combination of dry humor, tempos that ran from a virtual crawl to medium, and pulse-driven without ever being too obvious, müm's combination of quirky vocals, folk- driven instrumentation and contemporary sonics was a real winner.