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Jan Bang: Narrative from the Subtropics

John Kelman By

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There are times when it seems everything that has come before suddenly coalesces, reaches critical mass and engenders near-exponentially increased success and opportunity. For Jan Bang and Erik Honore, their Punkt live remix festival has evolved, since its early inception in Kristiansand, Norway, into a musical aesthetic brought to other festivals like Mannheim's Enjoy Jazz and Estonia's Jazzkaar. In nine years it's become a multinational event of world renown, its ever-expanding "Punkt Family" including a network of musicians that has— beyond Norwegian stalwarts like Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset and Sidsel Endresen—also welcomed British avant-songsmith David Sylvian, Estonian guitarist Robert Jürjendal, Japanese composer Dai Fujikura, and Spanish guitarist David Soler, amongst many others.

But Punkt's success and growing collective has not just impacted live performance; since 2011, Bang—first gaining international attention as live sampler in Nils Petter Molvaer's group—has not only delivered a superb leader debut, ...and poppies from Kandahar (SamadhiSound, 2011), he's also released equally fine collaborative efforts with Honoré, including Uncommon Deities (SamadhiSound, 2012) and, together with Henriksen and bassist/orchestrator Gaute Storaas, Knut Hamsun's Victoria (Jazzland, 2013). Bang and Honoré also co-produced Henriksen's critically acclaimed Cartography (ECM, 2008) and, perhaps even more significantly, the trumpeter's follow-up, Places of Worship (Rune Grammofon, 2013)—significant, because it's being released on September 6, 2013, the same day as Bang's Narrative from the Subtropics and a double-CD Release Concert at Punkt's ninth annual festival in Kristiansand.

It's wholly appropriate that Narrative shares both release date and concert with Places of Worship; while Bang is the sole producer of Narrative and, therefore, clearly reflects a more personal vision, it can still be considered, in addition to a logical successor to ...and poppies and Uncommon Deities, one half of a greater whole completed by Places of Worship. As different as the two records are, neither would have come to exist without the other. Beyond the superficial—shared personnel that, in addition to Bang, Honoré and Henriksen, also include Aarset and bassist Lars Danielsson- -Henriksen's record is more intrinsically lyrical across its entire program. Bang, on the other hand, juxtaposes moments of equally profound and spiritual beauty—the orchestral "Sinking Ship," featuring Henriksen at his most haunting, and the subterranean groove of "Funeral Voyage," with Molvær at his most sensual—against the more angular, avant "Melee of Suitcases," highlighting Endresen's stuttering and, despite being unprocessed, underwater-textured vocalizations, and the even more oblique, concrète- informed "Flooded Corridors."

More than Places of Worship, Narrative's expansive personnel- -Estonians Jürjendal and singer/kantele player Tuule Kann alongside Henriksen and Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan on the folkloric "Singers Childhood"— is further evidence of how Punkt—and, by definition, Bang and Honoré—has engendered new and rare cross-cultural collaborations. Punkt could not have happened without Bang and Honoré''s initial vision; but nine years later it has assumed a life of its own, and impacted the Punkt Family in ways it could never have envisaged. The cinematic tales of Bang's extraordinary Narrative from the Subtropics represent just one more example of how Punkt has not just changed the way music is created, it's changed the lives of all those it has touched.

Track Listing: Iron Balcony; Singer's Ashes; Tide; Smashing Windows; The Deep Serene; Singer's Childhood; Funeral Voyage; Interlude (Night Creatures); Melee of Suitcases; Artificial Reeves; Sinking Ship; Flooded Corridors; Lifeboat.

Personnel: Jan Bang: Akai sampler (1-13), programming (1-7, 9-13), synthesizer (3, 5), mpc (7), dictaphone (7), kaoss pad (10); Nils Chr. Moe Repstad: voice; Eivind Aarset: sampled guitar (2), guitars (3, 5, 7), bass (7); Sidsel Endresen: vocal (3, 9); Lars Danielsson: double bass (3); Undark: organ (3); Erik Honoré: field crickets (3), synthesizer (7); Arve Henriksen: sampled trumpet (4), trumpet (6, 8, 11); Tuule Kann: vocal (6), kannel (6); Tigran Hamasyan: piano (6); Robert Jürjendal: guitars (6); Stian Westerhus: sampled guitar (6), guitar (8); Nils Petter Molvæer: trumpet (7); Dai Fujikura: piano (9), electronics (9), cello samples (12); David Soler: sampled guitar (11).

Title: Narrative From The Subtropics | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Jazzland Recordings

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