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Live Reviews

Punkt 2012: Kristiansand, Norway, September 6-8, 2012

By Published: September 19, 2012
September 5 Live Remix: Vladislav Delay

For the final remix of the day, Finland's Vladislav Delay (aka Sasu Ripatti) did a terrific job reinterpreting elements of müm's set, in a manner both denser and considerably more foreboding. If there were any complaints, it was the lack of interaction with anyone else, and a remix that, at nearly 40 minutes, went on a little bit too long.

Still, beyond Bang, Honoré and Schwalm, it's clear that Delay—one of a number of musical noms de plume Ripatti uses, depending on the musical emphasis— represented less rhythmic, more experimental territory than his more dance floor-ready efforts as Uusitalo or Luomo. One of the earmarks of the electronic musicians performing at Punkt 2012 was Eno's undeniable seminal influence, but what was equally clear was how each of them had moved on to create personal spaces. There were trace elements of Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (Astalwerks, 1983), but largely subsumed into Delay's harsher, more brooding sonics.

While the lighting in the Alfaroom was intentionally minimal—the point was, after all, not to consider this as a performance—there was still very effective use of spare lighting throughout the weekend, in Delay's case a bar of soft light that started below his table and rose, gradually, to face level, only to drop and begin the rise again. It was spare but effective in an unobtrusive, almost subconscious fashion.

If Delay's other work is more rhythm-based, that didn't mean there weren't occasional pulses to be found here—albeit staggered and jagged. A low-end pulse emerged towards the end of the remix, which Delay slowly began to spread out with unpredictable rests, until the Björk-like voice of müm's cellist, Serena Tideman, was brought in to move this episodic remix to its conclusion.

September 6 Afternoon Concert: Aagre / Honoré Year of the Bullet

A morning boat ride to the home of a local baker, who put on a terrific spread of seafood soup, smoked salmon, macaroons and muffins—and, of course, the prerequisite beer and wine—was the premise for the annual Saturday morning hang that has always helped to foster the transparency of Punkt, with musicians, media and others getting the chance to see a bit of the surrounding area, relaxing and getting to know each other better. The only prerequisite for many attending was, however, that it would be possible to return to Kilden for the 1:00 p.m. concert by Erik Honoré and his partner, singer Greta Aagre, celebrating the release of Year of the Bullet. With two of the album's primary participants in tow—guitarist Bjørn Charles Dreyer and bassist Snorre Kiil Saga, the quartet also took advantage of the presence of Arve Henriksen (who guests on the recording as well), to flesh things out to a quintet, which faithfully delivered a good chunk of the recording to an appreciative crowd in the Alfaroom.

Oftentimes dark, the performance was, as on record, a reflection of Aagre's warm, soft- spoken voice—fragile but, at times, capable of greater power, and a welcome, mature contrast to the younger singers that dominate the market. Honoré's electronic landscapes combined with folkloric elements, in particular when Dreyer moved to acoustic guitar. Henriksen's painfully lyrical horn was another constant throughout the set, but what was perhaps most impressive was how the group managed to evoke the album's gentle quietude in a live context. All too often the nervous energy of live performance means more physical energy, and what Year of the Bullet—an Italian expression describing the years of violence and terrorism in the 1970s, and the title of a film by German director Magarethe von Trotta, dealing with those times— needed was to be as atmospheric, unhurried and calm as the recording. Aagre and Honoré accomplished this to perfection, for an afternoon performance that was like a soft oasis in the darkened Alfaroom, as more hustle and bustle took place around it in the rest of the Kilden Performing Arts Centre.

September 6 Concert: Ben Frost

The final evening for Punkt 2012 opened with what was certainly the loudest show of the festival—and likely the loudest Kilden has seen in the few short months since opening earlier this year. Ben Frost has made a name for himself as an artist of extremes: harsh, Trent Reznor-like guitar noise mixed with dulcimers and softer electronic textures as informed by classical minimalism—and even Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's tintinnabulation—as he is more industrial sounds and noise improv. For his Punkt performance, Frost collaborated with müm's Serena Tideman—though, in truth, his overwhelming walls of sound largely overpowered the cellist, whose harmonics and occasional extreme bowing was often lost in the mix.

Frost's use of natural sounds—orcas singing, wolves howling, walruses gruffing and glaciers breaking—mirrored environmental music that's been issued under the banner of New Age music for decades, but what Frost did was the antithesis of that easy-on-the- ears wallpaper music, though occasional moments of beauty did surface, only to blend back into the denser audioscapes. Even as he periodically strapped on a guitar to create massive sounds that were hard to identify as coming from the instrument, were it not for the four large amplifiers through which he was feeding it, the 50-minute set was a strange confluence of contrasts. Performing music from By the Throat (Bedroom Community, 2009) but to far greater extremes, Frost's music built to nearly ear-shattering volumes, with massive bass beats thundering from Kilden's huge PA system. It was a bold and dramatic set that may have left some of the audience gasping for air, but was powerful, effective and the first of two festival highlights on its final evening.

It was also a case of technology working to great advantage. Beyond the laptop situated on a table stage center—and with the sound reflectors on the roof of the stage brought down to just a couple feet above Frost's head, creating an almost claustrophobic stage design which was barely lit—Frost used an iPad, when he moved over to an upright piano, to control the other soundscapes, making it a largely one-man show, with only the occasional audible interjections from Tideland.

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