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Live Reviews

Punkt Festival 2013

By Published: September 19, 2013
And it was. Not without the need to alter the mindset, and there were certainly some small snags—many of which were ironed out as the weekend progressed—but there were also some new advantages that were revealed as well. In past years, shows would be seen on the main stage of the venue. Following their completion, attendees would have to exit the hall and move to the other room (the Alfa Room) downstairs; even in the Agder, where the vibe was much less performance and much more intimate laboratory, where it was like being in the middle of a musical experiment, the time lapse between performance and remix sometimes resulted in a loss of continuity—although it did allow the remixers to set up during the main performance, listen and consider possible fragments for use.

At Kick, with an alcove situated above and behind the main stage that, walled in white drapery, was referred to by Honoré as "the doll's house," it was possible to start the live remix instantly following the end of the main stage performance, allowing for a real connection to be made; no more obvious was this when Henriksen, Bang and Honoré remixed Eivind Aarset's Dream Logic show. Over the course of three nights at Kick, having the remix begin instantly and then having a longer break before the next main stage act created a greater delineation between each performance and remix that, in almost every case, worked extremely well.

Punkt 2013 also missed one other important ingredient, unexpectedly: Fiona Talkington- -British radio show host of BBC's Late Junction, curator of the Conexions and Scene Norway series in London and much more—took ill at the last moment and so, having been the festival's MC and introducer for the past several years, a replacement had to be found on short notice. Thankfully, Dave Mullan—a longtime, self-avowed Punkaholic and web designer for artists including Bugge Wesseltoft and Arve Henriksen—was there to pick up the task. While Mullan didn't have Talkington's warmth and heart, what he brought to the stage introductions was a distinctly Irish sense of humor and informality that got better as the weekend wore on. Nobody could ever expect to replace Talkington, clearly the festival's heart, but with Mullan, Punkt had found its funny bone.

Day One, September 6: Mariam the Believer / Tigran Hamasyan & Jan Bang / Arve Henriksen & Jan Bang Double Release Concert

While the 2013 edition of Punkt did a little returning to roots, with a program that featured many of its mainstay performers—members of the ever-expanding Punkt family—it's always a sure bet that the festival will invite artists new to the festival and, in many cases, new to its audience. Swedish singer Mariam Wallentin was not a totally unknown entity, but how she has been known—WIldbirds & Peacedrums, her experimental duo with husband/drummer Andreas Werlin, and her work with bassist Anders Jormin on his most recent ECM recording, Ad Lucem (2012)—being in completely different contexts to the band she brought to Punkt, Mariam The Believer.

Considerably more straightforward than either Wildbirds & Peacedrums or her work with Jormin, Wallentin was celebrating the recent release of the group's first record, Blood Donation (Repeat Until Death, 2013). Werliin—better known, perhaps, as one-third of the Fire! trio with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson
Mats Gustafsson
Mats Gustafsson
and bassist Johan Berthling, and heard on albums including You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago (Rune Grammofon, 2009), and the larger Fire! Orchestra, which released its ambitious, critically acclaimed debut, Exit! earlier this year—was back, the rock in a quartet that also included bassist Jo Berger Myhre, of Norway's Splashgirl, and keyboardist Tomas Hallonsten, a founding member of Camera Obscura and also a participant in Fire! Orchestra.

Together, the result was a singer/songwriter's pop group, one capable of curious arrangements, otherworldly sonics and visceral grooves, all in support of the charismatic Wallentin, whose voice combined the upper and lower register leaps of oriental and middle eastern music into a unique and captivating hybrid. A careful, theatrical performer who came onstage in a flowing, colorful wrap that she later removed, revealing a pitch black dress underneath, Wallentin added some guitar to the mix but, far more often than not, the focus was on her vocal delivery of material that combined bleak subjects like "Dead Meat" with the similarly dark but ultimately more hopeful title track.

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