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Punkt Festival 2008: Day 1-3

John Kelman By

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Punkt Elope: Ogopogo / Jacob / Lama

As part of its ongoing attempt to bring attention to younger groups on the verge of breaking through, Punkt Elope is a venue where up-and-coming artists can gain exposure—and, as was the case with Wildbirds & Peacedrujms, who went on from their performance at Punkt 07 to appearances this year in Berlin, Oslo, Bergne, Utrecht, Manchester, Leeds, London and Copenhagen.

Organized by keyboardist/producer Andreas Stensland Lowe, who is also a member of Lama—one of the three groups who performed as part of Punkt Elope—Punkt Elope was cut back to one evening for Punkt 08, but with three very different groups who demonstrated a cutting edge approach to integrating indie rock attitude with noise improv, live sampling and, at times, dense and ear-shattering sonic landscapes.

Punkt Festival 08 / Ogoponjgo

Ogopogo featured trumpeter Eirik Dorsdal—armed with an array of pedals—and laptop/electronics manipulator Jon S. Lunde. With the bar filled to capacity (tables had to be removed to accommodate the largely standing crowd), the duo opened with a short set that demonstrated that form needn't be anywhere near convention. Mixing dense electronics with looped trumpets, orchestral percussion and heavily treated samples, it may have opened in relative abstraction, but later there were passages where delicate, chime-like chord changes created a foundation over which Dorsdal could layer simple, lyrical lines. A clear descendent of Norwegian trumpet innovators Nils Petter Molvaer and Arve Henriksen—themselves direct descendents of Jon Hassell— Dorsdal is a promising young player and, together with Ogopogo, appear to be looking for ways to expand on the kinds of sometimes harsh, other times beautiful audioscapes created by groups like Supersilent.

Punkt Festival 08 / Jacob

Jacob was a five-piece group led by bassist Jacob Ohrvall, and if Ogopogo was dense but often beautiful, Jacob took a more ear-shattering and skewed indie rock approach, creating a set that may have demonstrated some dynamics, but was largely assaultive. Eschewing the normal approach of his instrument, Ohrvall's loud, often fuzz-toned bass played more like a third guitar alongside six-stringers Carl Svensson and Alexander Simm. Keyboardist/electronics manipulator Tomas Hulenvik largely added jagged sonics that included use of a drill and a metal bowl filled with marbles, to create textures ranging from piercing screeches to visceral low end rumbles. Drummer Oyvind Hegg-Lunde played like a cross between a more youthful, maelstrom-like Jon Christensen and a fluid, pounding Keith Moon. While he used a more-or-less conventional kit, Hegg-Linde had an oddly shaped cymbal covered in a towel that, in conjunction with floor tom covered by a large cymbal, allowed him to create more industrial sound despite being all-acoustic.

Jagged and heavily overdriven guitars drove Jacob's skewed material, relentless pop songs without hooks but possessing something to create their own attraction. The only criticism was the volume which, at times, became so overpowering that it was impossible to delineate who was doing what. On the other hand, it's possible the fortified and inescapable sonic texture was the point, as it was only rarely during the group's set that any of the musicians were put in the spotlight. Instead it was about creating a sound that may have been singular, but was strangely and uniquely compelling, with Ogopogo.

The biggest buzz about Punkt Elope was for Lama, which has already achieved some success, a gig at the renowned Bla club in Oslo turning into dates at Oyafestival and Stavernfestivalen. The Punkt Magazine described the group as "six musicians with too many instruments, and a part of the evening's entertainment may well be to see how they can all manage to fit themselves onstage."

Punkt Festival 08 / Lama

Entertaining it was to see the group set up and, indeed, fit everything and themselves on Charlie's Bar's small stage. But when diminutive leader/guitarist Nils Marten Larsen kicked the group into high gear, it was clear why there was so much buzz about them and how they managed to snag two festival dates on the basis of one club performance. Like M'Shell N'Degeocello, Larsen commanded attention without doing anything specific to draw it. Immersed in music that featured propulsive rhythms, hard-edged guitar and vocals that were largely, with the exception of one song, lyric-less, Larsen led the group through a thirty -minute set that may have left ears ringing afterwards, but was well worth the damage.

Compared to Jacob, Lama's music had a far more delineated form, although it rarely fit into the verse- chorus-verse format of normal indie rock. Like Canada's Arcade Fire, Lama also worked with a wide range of colors on its palette. Larsen also played saxophone, and had a laptop with programmed patterns; drummer Andreas Lonmo used electronics along with a drum kit and hand percussion; Elope organizer and keyboardist Andreas Stensland Lowe utilized a variety of analog and digital keyboard sounds, as well as bowing a single string drawn across a wooden box; and Jonas Vemoy played synth, xylophone and trumpet, sometimes at the same time. Only bassist/vocalist Mats Greger and guitarist Goran Obad appeared to stick with convention, though both utilized their share of processing (and, in the case of Obad along with Larsen and Lowe, a bow) to draw a variety of tones from their instruments. Without orthodox form, the music frequently registered changes in texture, density and dynamics to give shape to the group's original material.

Again, it wasn't about soloing: rather it was about creating a group sound, a group identity—and of the three groups who performed at Punkt Elope, it's likely that Lama is the one with the most potential for greater success in the near-term. Both Jacob and, in particular, Ogopogo demonstrated plenty of promise; but Lama was the group already delivering on that promise.

Tomorrow: Seminar from Gavin Bryars; Brian Eno and Jon Hassell: A Conversational Remix; and performances/remixes by Jan Bang, Erik Honoré, Gavin Bryars, Synno S. Bjorset and Ase Teigland; J. Peter Scwhalm and Sofie Clements; DJ Strangefruit, Nik Bartsch's Ronin, Nils Petter Molvaer and Eivind Aarset.

Visit Brian Eno, Lama and Punkt Festival on the web.

Photo Credits
Kristiansand Photo: John Kelman
All Other Photos: Jan Hangeland (also at MySpace)

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3


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