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12 Points 2014, Umea

Henning Bolte By

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Godley is not only the driving force and inspiring source behind 12 Points; he is the storytelling frontman of the festival in action, too. He knows that music always comes from a place: physically, mentally and in the imagination. He also knows that music happens in places, and that music is embedded in stories. And that is what he conjured up, going on to spin the thread again and again during his introductions to the performers, thereby making use of the central image of the poem "Digging," by his compatriot Seamus Heaney. Three days of digging. Three days of young up-and-coming artists' new musical inventions, assemblages and outbursts.

First Night

The first night presented two female lead constellations: Swedish saxophonist Elin Larsson's group and Norwegian bassist/vocalist Ellen Wang's Pixel. It opened with the heavily armed Swiss threesome Schnellertollermeier, a contraction of the musician's name meaning fast and gorgeous Myer.

Elin Larsson is a high-intensity, fully firing saxophonist, which became apparent and carried her group's hymn-like pieces. Her playing had an almost animal-like quality, the compositions winding along an elongated arch to reach a climax of intensity. Intricately built, with open textures and to-the-point soloing, the group came across as a tight unit excelling in loose execution. The frontline interaction between leader Larsson and trombonist Kristian Persson made the group's sound shine brightly.

Pixel—which is front-woman Wang, trumpeter Jonas Vemoy and saxophonist Harald Lassen plus Jon Baar's propulsive and sophisticated drumming- -brought strong repetitive rhythmical patterns to launch Wang's short, shouted out vocal lines . The actively moving foursome circled around the catchy riffs which have become their trademark. They could have been shooting rubber bands at the stars but stayed, instead, on their own firm ground, hinting at the sky. Pixel delivered a visually attractive and radio friendly performance.

The very first act of the night was the fast and gorgeous Myer, Schnellertollermeier or STM, from Lucerne, Switzerland. STM had, earlier that day, made a pre-start at Umeå university. Guitarist Andi Schnellmann, electric bass guitarist Manuel Troller and drummer David Meier brought music full of deep in- the-moment interaction, rhythmic complexity and stunning about-turns. The three musicians of STM, who are in full development, gradually built up heavily culminating stretches, moving with an ebb and flow but also like squalls, with their sudden turnabouts. They were able to go from serene hush to violent storm, from innocent tinkle or lullaby to high speed metal in convincing and touching ways. They worked their way through "Moonchild," "White-Room" and "Albatros" modes, impressing with deeply into and out-of-moment dynamics, only to go further than where other noise groups have become stuck. They were the music they played and they nailed it, always pushing the envelope.

Second Night

The second night offered, once again, two female-led constellations— French Five38 and Danish Foyn Trio—and another non-hierarchical threesome from the vibrant music scene in Ghent, Belgium.

Five38, the opening act, was 43 strings, four female hands and a lot pedals and tools to extend the sounds of acoustic bass guitar and a harp, all executed by Fanny Lafargue (Marseille) and Rafaelle Rinaudo (Paris). They went on a journey along etheric layers, as well as heavily bouncing, clinking and rumbling punches (in The Ex mode) melding into a visceral soundscape. During its performance the duo demonstrated a certain insecure shyness that intensified the mystery of it and strongly fed the expectation that there was something more promising behind it.

The drum-less Foyn Trio followed. Headed by vocalist Live Foyn Friis, the group geared into more mellow, voice-loaded territories. Together with bassist Jens Mikkel Madsen and guitarist Alex Jonsson Friis carved idiosyncratic contours and modulations as well as more straight-ahead singer- songwriter beauties. She employed idiosyncratic figures and modulations, as well as more straight-ahead singer-songwriter beauties. Together the Foyn Trio carved a signature of its own and wove flowery textures, ending its performance with a courageous a cappella fade-out.


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