Punkt Festival 2010

John Kelman By

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September 4: Boat Trip/Kilden

Every year, on the final day of Punkt, guests of the festival are taken on a daytime trip that, weather permitting, usually involves a boat trip around the islands off the coast of Kristiansand. The past couple years were marred by inclement weather, but the sun was shining on September 4, the final day of Punkt 2010. And so, a number of speed boats took a group of about 20 people to an island where a sheep farm was still active.

Punkt's guests—musicians and journalists/photographers, as well as festival volunteers; even Jan Bang who, for the first time in five years, attended and took a little well- deserved break during the festival—were treated to a simple but lovely lunch of bread, wine and fish soup. A brief speech from a municipal representative shed some more light on Kilden, the new arts center being built that, when it opens in January, 2012, will house Punkt and give it more room to grow.

Kilden Construction Site

More than "just an arts center," however, what makes Kilden special—in Norway and, in many ways, the world—is its plan to house the town's theater company, symphony orchestra, opera and more. By housing these groups under one roof (physical and organizational), it will engender easier collaboration. Kristiansand may only be a town of 80,000, but like Punkt, it clearly thinks big; a small place that continues to find ways to put itself on a larger national and international map. Going by the construction site, on the way back to Kristiansand, it was already clear—with its stunning use of curved wooden panels on the outside—that this is going to be a stunning structure, on a scale simply unheard of in towns of similar size in North America.

Lunch on the Farm

Attending the lunch also provided an opportunity to experience one of the many unique aspects of Punkt. Most festivals cement their programs far in advance of the event, but Punkt always leaves room for flexibility in the Live Remixes. The 2010 program had nothing but "tba" listed for remixes of both Supersilent and the double concert featuring the improvising duo of guitarist Stian Westerhus and singer Sidsel Endresen, and roots-guitarist Knut Reiersrud. Standing around after lunch, speaking with J.A. Deane, Jan Bang suddenly appeared, saying to Deane, "we have a double show with guitarist Knut Reiersrud, and a duo with Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus; the new guitarist on the scene. Would you be interested in doing the remix?" After about a millisecond of thought, Deane replied, simply, "Sure."

It was that easy; demonstrative of Punkt's open and flexible nature; a festival with no shortage of logistical planning to allow for the rapid change of sets and groups in both the theater and Alpha Room, but equally, an event where decisions can be made on the fly, to encourage collaboration and interaction on a level rarely seen or heard at a music festival.

Traveling off the coast of Kristiansand, Norway

After a leisurely lunch, Punkt's guests were taken back to town, for a little downtime in preparation for Punkt's final night of programming and, in addition to shows already planned—and remixes just decided—a surprise that would make Punkt 2010 even more special, more rare.

September 4 Concert: Unni Wilhelmsen

With the release of 7 (St. Cecilia Music, 2010), Norwegian singer/songwriter Unni Wilhelmsen took a step in a new direction, collaborating with Jan Bang and Erik Honoré to give her compellingly honest songs a different treatment than on her previous six releases, including her breakthrough To Whom It May Concern (Polygram, 1997), recipient of two Norwegian Grammy Awards that year ("Best Female Artist of the Year," "Best Album of the Year"). Surprisingly, when invited to Punkt to perform, rather than collaborating with Bang and Honoré to replicate the programd beats and electro-centric production of the record, she chose to deliver its songs with a largely acoustic group, featuring bassist Lars Danielsson (heard the previous evening in Bang's ...and poppies from Kandahar performance), along with keyboardist David Wallumrød and drummer Anders Engen (also heard the previous night at the Live Remix of Bang's show), and background vocalist Ronny Johnsen.

Unni Wilhelmsen

All of her band mates had performed on 7, but only on selected tracks and with a much different emphasiz. Here, with Wilhelmsen alternating between guitar and piano ("Since I have a big stage, I'm going to use it"), her set—consisting primarily of songs from 7 but with one nod back to her 1997 debut—the group delivered the songs with a similar elegant gentility. Arve Henriksen dropped in to play on the two songs on which he guested on 7—the haunting "Pedestrian Slow" and "Orange"—both played more directly by the group and, without Bang and Honoré's soft soundscapes and treatments, relying more on the trumpeter's personal voice and inherent lyricism.

Wilhelmsen introduced all the songs with a combination of self-deprecating humor, referring to her partner as the person she "shares an address with," rather than boyfriend, as she described the circumstances surrounding "Oranges," a particularly personal song about the singer/songwriter at her most vulnerable. She was clearly enjoying herself, quickly engaging the audience as she described how the smallest kernel can lead to a song idea, the source for "Pedestrian Slow" being a sign on a subway train in Oslo, "Remain on the train in case of evacuation." Her voice combined confidence and fragility, delivering a version of her set-closer, Joni Mitchell's enduring "Both Sides Now," that actually surpasses her recorded version.

With a relatively spare and direct stage setup and lighting, everything relied on Wilhelmsen's delivery and the support of her group. Danielsson, playing electric bass for most of the set (a rarity, these days), pushed the groove but also acted as a melodic foil, while Wallumrød contributed a soft cushion of textural support and Engen's pliant time sense kept the group focused, but left plenty of room to move. Much like Hanne Hukkelberg's performance at Punkt 2006, Wilhelmsen provided further proof that there are absolutely no stylistic boundaries at Punkt, as she opened the final evening with an honest and immediate singer/songwriter set that set the stage for an evening about to travel from roots music to the furthest extremes of spontaneous improvisation, and more.

Punkt Festival 09 / Pal Strangefruit Nyhus September 4 Live Remix: Mungolian Jet Set

Once again, Punkt recruited BBC Radio's Fiona Talkington—host of the successful Late Night Junction and curator of numerous British events including the November, 2008 Punkt festival at King's Place, part of the two-week Scene Norway mini-festival, within the purview of the London Jazz Festival—to host Punkt and introduce the performances in the main theatre. As ever, her heartfelt and warm persona—and broad musical expertise—not only created artist intros that opened a brief contextual window for the audience, but built, over the course of the festival, a broader perspective on the artists and the festival. In her intro to Wilhelmsen's set, she invited Erik Honoré to accompany her for a brief dialogue, where the Punkt Artistic Co-Director talked about how the festival looks to break down barriers and strengthen foundations for the future. Little did Honoré know that his intro for Wilhelmsen—simply, "Ladies and Gentlement...Unni Wilhelmsen"—would be the initial grist for a Live Remix to the singer/songwriter's set that would bring a clear sense of humor into the mix.

Of course, it was no surprise that a remix by Mungolian Jet Set—the moniker used by longtime Punkt friend/turntablist Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus, and his equally longstanding partner in crime, Knut Sævik—would be heavy on the fun factor, especially from Nyhus, whose last words the day after Punkt 2009 ended, were "May the Mung be with you," and who struck a mighty disco pose at his daytime seminar the same year, a discourse on the early days of disco in the 1970s, when it was still an underground movement. Beginning with a sample of Honoré's intro, Mungolian Jet Set proceeded to loop, fragment, pitch shift and twist and turn Honoré's words; eliciting not only a lot of laughter from the packed Alpha Room, but some surprise from Wilhemsen herself, seated on the floor at the front of the house. Wilhemsen, it seems, had no idea that her set was going to be remixed, and for a "remix virgin," it was hard to imagine a better pair of musicians than Nyhus and Sævik to give Wilhemsen her first experience.

Honoré also mentioned, in his onstage dialogue with Talkington, that this year's festival would lay to rest, once and for all, any suggestions that Punkt was only about ambient music. Not that there would be anything wrong with that—and surely a misinformed suggestion when looking back at the festival's past five years—Mungolian Jet Set's remix also laid waste to the claim, as it took Wilhelmsen's music and, with an appropriate degree of reverence and utter disrespect (but in the most loving way possible), moved from Honoré's words to one of Wilhemsen's own introductions ("I have the best job in the world"). Henriksen's trumpet was gradually brought into the mix, along with a minimalism-informed pulse that gave the remix a danceability factor of 11—though, with shifts in time and assorted staggered beats, it was dance music for the temporally challenged.

Mungolian Jet Set's Knut Sævik

Given that Mungolian Jet Set is all about remix—its We Gave It All Away...Now We Are Taking It Back (Smalltown Supersound, 2009) a whopping double-disc set of remixes featuring a wealth of Norwegian collaborators, including Punkt regulars and past performers such as Nils Petter Molvær, guitarist Eivind Aarset and singer Mari Boine—its participation at Punkt is a given. In past years, Mungolian Jet Set held court at the festival's late night Punkt Klubb, but this Live Remix was to be its only official performance this year. Still, as capable as Jet Set is of doing remixes, much of its work takes place in the studio, where there's time to try ideas out before deciding if they're worth putting out to the world. With Live Remix, choices have to be made in a nanosecond, and there's no chance to take them back; as the Jet Set's remix continued, it became clear that both Nyhus and Sævik possessed incredible intuition, and real-time instincts comparable (but different) to Bang and Honoré, when it comes to absorbing a huge palette of sound, grabbing fragments of interest on the fly, and creating a remix that had surprising shape and focus.

In a year where every remix was memorable, Mungolian Jet Set's work with WIlhemsen's music will stand out as the most groove-driven and just plain fun Live Remix of the festival.

September 4 Double Concert: Sidsel Endresen/Stian Westerhus and Knut Reiersrud

For the past couple years, Punkt has been creating double bills of artists that compare and contrast. An acoustic solo set by singer Sidsel Endresen, for example, was paired with a more expansively electronic set from Maja Ratkje. The idea of pairing guitarists Stian Westerhus (in duet with Endresen) and Knut Reirsrud only served to demonstrate how remarkable each was: one, a masterful student of tradition; the other an intentionally irreverent dispenser of all orthodoxy.

Westerhus and Endresen have only begun collaborating recently, but their performance at Molde Jazz Festival, earlier this summer, was a clear shot across the bow; an announcement of a new improvising duo capable of great extremes...and, occasionally, even greater beauty.

From left: Stian Westerhus, Knut Reiersrud

The duo's set at Punkt was, by necessity, shorter than their Molde show, but demonstrated just how far Westerhus and Endresen have come in just a couple of months. Westerhus—as usual, with a number of large amplifiers and a pedal setup so complex that it made his absolute command of it all the more incredible—created sonic landscapes of jagged, angular beauty, using a regular Gibson hollow body electric and a Dan Electro electric baritone guitar. Endresen, seated way across the stage, may have been distanced physically, but her connection with Westerhus on an instinctive musical level was even more profound than it was at Molde. Her ability to vocalize sounds that really shouldn't be possible with the human voice was pushed to its limits by Westerhus, whose ability to pull otherworldly sounds out of his rig was equally unexpected, unpredictable and unrelenting.

The two found ways to twist and turn—each taking cues from the other; pushing and pulling; and giving and taking. Brief solo spots allowed each to drive the improvisation in a new direction, the sum total being an exhilarating example of focused improvisation at its best. But what was most important about the set was the degree of risk-taking going on; this duo is all about chance, but here, with more time spent performing together, they were continually out on the precipice, leaning over into the abyss so far that it was only due to their inherent control that they never actual took the plunge.

Westerhus is clearly the new "enfant terrible" of the guitar, a position supported by his recently released solo record, Pitch Black Star Spangled (Rune Grammofon, 2010); Reiersrud may be a less-known entity, but on the strength of his recent Gitar (Jazzland, 2010) alone, he's an artist deserving of far greater recognition. More conventional, yes; but with a command of his instrument that has allowed him to fit within a multiplicity of musical contexts.

Knut Reiersrud

Gitar is a roots-based record, with much to compare it to the soundtrack work of American musical archivist and Buena Vista Social Club (Nonesuch, 1997) creator, Ry Cooder. Some of the darker pieces on the album are reminiscent of Cooder's soundtrack to Wim Wenders' 1984 classic, Paris, Texas, and Reiersrud—dressed in a funky suit, with a red fedora blocking his face much of the time—opened his short set with an acoustic slide guitar solo piece redolent of that same space. Unlike Cooder, however, and more like his fellow Norwegians, Reiersrud also made judicious use of looping to create a larger landscape for his virtuosic playing.

Reiersrud's roots credibility and sheer comfort onstage became even more evident when he delivered a soft, heartfelt and blues-drenched version of "She's Got the Whole World in Her Hands." A more sophisticated player than Cooder, Reiersrud used alternative tunings, capos and other devices to deliver a set that packed a lot into a short space. A remarkably lithe right hand—whether flat-picking, finger-picking or bowing his acoustic guitar to create orchestral breadth—was matched by a left hand that moved around the neck with the kind of comfort that only comes from years of practice and performance. Relaxed, even when he was playing at lightning speed on material that combined blues roots with Norwegian folk traditionalism, it was a perfect contrast to Westerhus and Endresen's set. The duo may have proved the value of dispensing with convention, but Reiersrud demonstrated that, in the right hands, there's nothing constraining about working within it, either.

September 4 Live Remix: Dino J.A. Deane/Nils Petter Molvær

When Jan Bang invited J.A. Deane to remix the Westerhus and Endresen/Reiersrud double concert, the American live sampler knew nothing of either artist, nor was he familiar with trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær; when Deane made his first Punkt appearance in 2009, it was the first year, since the festival's inception, that Molvær was absent. As of that afternoon, in fact, the decision to ask Molvær to participate had yet to be made. All of which meant that this remix represented the best of Punkt: the bringing together of musicians previously unfamiliar with each other, based on the intuitive feeling, by Bang and/or Honoré, that it would be an inspired combination.

From left: Nils Petter Molvær, J.A. Deane

It was. Most Live Remixes of double concerts look for ways to use both sets, but usually as separate entities. All the more remarkable, then, that Deane heard a connection between two performances that, on the surface, could not have been more different: Westerhus and Endresen completely spontaneous, unconventional and edgy; Reiersrud all about working within structure and tradition. And yet, Deane heard points of confluence in the two sets, and in his remix actually brought Westerhus and Reiersrud together for a virtual duo set that might have been.

Combining Reiersrud's rootsy altered tunings and Westerhus' complete rejection of such devices, Deane created shifting landscapes, over which Molvær judiciously layered his own distinctive lyricism. Without any of his usual devices, Molvær was left to his own acoustic tone and some pure, unaffected melodic ideas. Although it was Molvær who introduced Arve Henriksen to shakuhachi recordings, and the beginning of a search for a new sound for the younger trumpeter, the influence of the Japanese end- blown wooden or bamboo flute on Molvær remains clear and unmistakable; still, his sound remains his own, with a tarter edge, even when his lines approach near-vocal expressiveness. Listening intently to Deane's gradually evolving soundscape, Molvær's discretion was as impressive as the notes he played, as he listened intently for just the right moment.

How a Live Remix begins and how it ends is, perhaps, one of its most challenging aspects: how to know, amongst a group of players, that the time is up and it's time to wrap things up. As Deane began to sample Molvær, and layer his own lines beneath the trumpeter, it was this mix of in-the-moment playing with fragments from the main theater performance that led inevitably to a logical conclusion, as Deane slowly faded to black, and Molvær created a definitive ending with a very spare, very simple descending line that brought the remix to a perfect end.

September 4 Concert: Supersilent and a Surprise Guest

Punkt may be, in terms of size, a small festival; but it's one that has, since inception, been gaining an international reputation in leaps and bounds. Brian Eno attended the festival in 2008, and contributed his 77 Million Paintings for Punkt, multimedia installation, to Punkt Kunst, at the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum; British avant-singer David Sylvian, who already has ties to Punkt through work with some of its regulars—not to mention releasing Jan Bang's ...and poppies from Kandahar on his SamadhiSound label, contributing both the album and track titles—is rumored to be interested in attending in a future year. But nobody would have expected an ex-member of British rock group Led Zeppelin to be in attendance at Punkt, much less performing at it.

John Paul Jones

It was inevitable, however, after Zeppelin bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones attended Punkt in London, in 2008. Excited by what he saw and heard, he decided to make the trip to Kristiansand, initially as an attendee. But, bringing his bass and a laptop computer along, he offered to perform a short opening set somewhere during the program; setting up at the same time as Norwegian noise improv group Supersilent on the afternoon of the last day, however, one thing led to another, and the next thing everyone knew, Jones was not only going to do his opening set for Supersilent; he was going to sit in with them as well.

Those only familiar with Jones' Zeppelin work might find this an odd combination, but Jones has been a sonic experimenter long after Zeppelin was over; since the group's demise in 1980, Jones has collaborated with artists including Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. At the turn of the millennium, Jones released two albums that focused on his multi-instrumentalism and, collaborating on one of them, with King Crimson co-founder Robert Fripp, he found himself on tour co- headlining with Crimson. He's been involved in soundtrack work as well, and it was from a score to a dance piece that Jones culled the solo bass performance that opened Supersilent's set.

Of course, armed with a laptop computer—this was Punkt, after all— this was no conventional bass solo, as Jones began with relatively normal textures, but gradually moved to greater extremes, using ring modulation to create oblique harmonies, overdrive to create dense textures, and assorted other effects to create a piece that ebbed and flowed, building to periodic climaxes only to settle and begin the climb once again. Beautiful chords gave way to angular expressionism, as Jones delivered a short set that, for those unfamiliar with his post-Zep work, must have been a shock to the system, but set a clear context for the collaboration with Supersilent to follow.

Despite Jones' inherent star power, when Supersilent took to the stage, he became just another member of the band; with Henriksen beginning the set on trumpet, Ståle Storløkken on synth, and Helge Sten on guitar, Jones moved towards the back of the stage, where he stayed for most of a set that went far longer than its allotted time— clearly everyone was having a blast.

From left: John Paul Jones, Arve Henriksen

Henriksen, in particular, seemed to be enjoying playing drums during a set that went from thunderous climax to thunderous climax; and who wouldn't? Henriksen may be no John Bonham, but he grooved harder than usual during the first extended improvisation, as he locked in, for brief moments, with Jones. Still, while Supersilent may be about free improvisation with rock energy and volume, Jones' participation did nothing to slow down the group's remarkable chemistry. It sounded, in fact, as if they'd been playing together for years, as Jones moved around the neck to create, deep, visceral and snaking lines beneath Sten's sonic manipulations, Storløkken textural excursions and otherworldly electronic melodism, and Henriksen—who moved from kit to trumpet to falsetto and harsher growl to pocket trumpet.

Again, Tord Knudsen's lighting complemented the performance perfectly; in many ways, Supersilent has always been about anonymity—its releases bearing identical designs other than the primary color, no personnel listings other than producer and engineer, where and when the album was recorded, and song titles that are nothing more than the number of the album and the track number. Even watching the group in performance, outside of some of the obvious sonics, there was a lot going on which could not be easily attributed to any one member of the group. Improvisations were collective, with no real delineated solos (even though everyone did, without direct intent, draw specific focus at different times throughout the set), and so Knudsen's lighting, rather than illuminating the group members, actually went even further to blend them into the visual backdrop; Henriksen, in fact, sometimes more visible on the rear projection than he ever was with direct lighting.

Helge Sten

All of which makes Supersilent a unique experience. But with the group's demonstration seminar earlier in the festival providing some perspective on what they do and how they do it, the group's evening performance with Jones, on the last day of Punkt 2010, was a definitive moment in the history of the festival. Jones' appearance at Punkt 2010 will undoubtedly place the festival on an entirely different radar; one that will only increase its international visibility and allow it to expand even further into areas previously unreachable.

September 4 Live Remix: Jan Bang/Jon Hassell/ Skúli Sverrisson/Erik Honoré

For the final remix of Punkt 2010, the festival invited the figure who is, perhaps more than any, the spiritual godfather of Punkt: Fourth World progenitor, Jon Hassell. In recent years, Hassell has been a regular Punkt participant—recruiting Bang, in fact, for his most recent album Last night the moon came dropping its clothes in the street (ECM, 2009) and his touring group, Maarifa Street. Bang and Hassell had just returned from Iceland, immediately before the festival, where they performed a duet in Reykjavik, and so it seems almost serendipitous that an Icelandic expat, bassist Skúli Sverrisson (now living in New York for many years), was also on-hand. Add Erik Honoré, and the result was a combination of old and new friends, coming together to remix a completely unexpected performance featuring a first-time collaboration.

Form left: Jon Hassell, Skúli Sverrisson

While Supersilent can approach beauty (albeit often form a very oblique perspective), the Live Remix posted a far gentler alternative to its incendiary main stage performance. Like most of the performances on Punkt's final day, The Alpha Room was packed to the rafters, this time with people curious to hear how Supersilent's one-of-a-kind performance could be reshaped and reinterpreted. More static than Supersilent's show, there was, nevertheless, a disturbing undercurrent, often rumbling underneath Hassell's pitch-shifted trumpet, with a staggered electric pulse providing forward motion as Sverrisson created his own undercurrent from a processed serious of repeated hammer- ons.

Hassell remixing Henriksen is a profound enough idea; the 2007 Live Remix, where Henriksen was invited to sit in with Hassell, was moving enough to literally bring some of its participants to tears afterwards; here, with Henriksen one step removed, it was moving as well, but in a different fashion, as Hassell worked with the feeds he was receiving from Bang and Honoré, the energy of the remix lifting, when Henriksen's drum segments were brought into play.

Watching Bang and Honoré, on opposite sides of the floor—there's no stage in The Alpha Room—only serves to cement the kind of empathy shared by the two. Bang, as ever, was the more visual of the two, moving to pulses that were clear and others that only he could hear; Honoré was almost completely motionless; the only sign of anything happening, the occasional slight smile, when things were going right.

Erik Honoré

And they were clearly going right during this relatively brief remix. Even Hassell— normally looking self-absorbed, although the interaction with his band mates on a deep, near-subconscious level was never less than crystal clear—came to smile at one point during the remix. It was a fitting end to Punkt 2010's series of Live Remixes. With Live Remixes—especially those that, perhaps, aren't as successful as the artists would like—the journey is always worth it, even when the destination isn't; but for Punkt 2010, and its consistently strong remixes, the destinations ended up being equally valuable.

September 4 Concert: Nils Petter Molvær Trio

When he played with his trio at Molde this year, as part of his Artist in Residence series, Nils Petter Molvær was down a member, with regular drummer Audun Kleive unable to attend. Sometimes, however, disadvantage can turn to advantage, as substitute drummer Erland Dahlen lit a serious fire under a group that, since the trumpeter recruited guitarist Stian Westerhus to replace the departing Eivind Aarset, has already upped the ante on energy, edge...and volume. For the closing concert at Punkt 2010, Molvær was able to bring his regular working trio, and the difference was palpable. Not better, not worse; simply different.

From left: Stian Westerhus, Nls Petter Molvær, Audun Kleive

There was something raw and unbridled about Dahlen that worked particularly well with Westerhus; Kleive, a more accomplished player, has a history that dates back to guitarist Terje Rypdal's renowned Chasers group of the 1980s, countless gigs touring around Europe with names such as guitarist Mike Stern and reed player Charles Lloyd, seminal work with Norwegian keyboardist Jon Balke and Danish percussionist Marilyn Mazur, and his own recordings, including the stunning Bitt (Jazzland, 1997) and Generator X (Jazzland, 1999). The more seasoned Kleive brought a more orchestral percussive sensibility to Molvær's trio; no shortage of energy and groove, either, but in a more polished fashion that contrasted with Westerhus' jagged and seemingly unschooled approach (seemingly, because Westerhus is an educated musician, proof positive that in order to really break the rules you first have to know them). With a much larger kit than Dahlen's, Kleive's textural options were far greater, and at the start of the set, in fact, he stood, rather than being seated, at his drums, playing his kit more as if he were a percussionist in an orchestra than in a small improvising jazz group.

Unschooled he may appear, but Westerhus' reach is also orchestral, using his array of foot pedals—switched on and off with near reckless abandon, adjusting settings, and bringing them together in permutations and combinations—as much as he used unorthodox right hand techniques, scratching, scraping and bowing his strings as often as he picked them. In this constantly shifting landscape, culling material from past Molvær albums including the stellar Hamada (Sula, 2009), was so radically altered as to be almost unrecognizable ("the old stuff doesn't sound anything like the old stuff," he said in an All About Jazz interview, earlier this summer. "It's funny, because I don't really know which albums the tunes are from, so it's funny when you play a venue packed with old fans and Nils Petter starts playing a tune, and they go 'whaaaaaaaa!' and it's like, 'OK, it's an old tune, and they didn't clap because I'd stopped playing [laughs].") Westerhus and Kleive locked into some thundering, grungy grooves, giving Molvær a serious kick out of any comfort zone he might consider.

Stian Westerhus

Westerhus also said in his interview that "I'm kicking Nils Petter's ass a lot harder, and what he says is that, especially earlier—when they had a lot of DJs and beats and grooves going on—he could play a bit and then sit back a bit. Now he can't sit back at all—he's just really forced into playing a lot more. And it's so free now; we play tunes but, at the same time, if you see it from the other side, I only have one groove, one key and three chords that I have to do, so I can force Nils Petter into any corner I want, and he can force me into any corner he wants, which is great. You really need to be razor sharp when you go onto the stage, which is fantastic."

If Westerhus is kicking Molvær's ass, it's just as clear that the trumpeter is pushing his trio mates. As lyrical as ever, Molvær's evolution as a trumpeter has been a remarkable trip from his early days in the more acoustic, structure-based music of Masqualero, a stunning 1980s/1990s band co-led by bassist Arild Andersen and drummer Jon Christensen. If Masqualero taught Molvær about collective improvisation around a structured context, the form of his latest trio is as loose as it's ever been. Continuous sets move from song to song, but with long stretches of improvisation linking them in new ways each and every night. And with Molvær spending almost as much time singing into the bell of his trumpet as he was blowing into its mouthpiece—harmonizing, looping and layering these vocal textures to create rich washes of sound—he's far more consistently engaged. Yes, there are passages where he steps back to let Westerhus shape a new sonic premise, or Kleive find a new way to a groove; but this trio is a far harder-working and harder- edged group than any of his previous groups.

Nils Petter Molvær

The trio is also more overtly exploratory, rarely (if ever) repeating itself; in a set that lasted a little more than an hour, Molvær, Westerhus and Kleive made clear that the trumpeter has moved on significantly since his breakthrough record, Khmer (ECM, 1997). Molvær has, in fact, got some studio time booked to finally record this trio, and while it will likely be some time before it sees the light of day, after performance like this, one can only wait in eager anticipation.

September 4: Post-Punkt Party and Festival Wrap-Up

And so, another year, another Punkt. With a series of remarkable performances and Live Remixes that ran the gamut from contemporary classical composition to the farthest reaches of extemporaneous creation, there was a lot to recommend—and precious little to criticize—about a festival now wrapping up its sixth year, with at least one event that will put it on a different map than it's been on before. Nobody planned for John Paul Jones to come to Punkt, but there's little doubt that it will provide a significant push in visibility, when planning for Punkt 2011. Had he not attended, had he not delivered a brief opening set, and had he not sat in with Supersilent, Punkt 2010 would still have managed to surpass previous years. But it's impossible to ignore the significance of a festival that, at best, can seat 550 people at any one time, yet is capable of attracting the kind of name power it is beginning to entice, year after year.

But the beauty of it all is that none of this will deflect from Punkt's primary mission; instead, it will simply enable the festival to grow into new areas, through the vast potential of an ever-expanding network of people who believe in that mission.

Attending the jam-packed post-Punkt party at K35—up the street from the Agder Theatre, a location that served food and drink for guests of the festival throughout its three-day run—it became clear just how much this festival is about building on relationships. From journalists who came from as far away as Canada and Japan, and musicians spread even more widely across the globe, to a dedicated staff of festival volunteers, many of whom have been with the festival since inception, it was an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down after a festival that managed, as Punkt has done year-after-year, to surpass previous editions and set a new high bar for the year to come.

The party went on until well beyond sunrise—even considering that sunrise, at this time of year in Kristiansand, was still very, very early—and there were, no doubt, more than a few post-Punkt hangovers. But when it takes more than an hour just to say goodbye to all the old friends from past years, as well as new ones forged in just the past couple days, it's clear evidence of the growing importance—and reach—of Punkt.

Punkt may only happen once a year in Kristiansand—and, perhaps, a couple more times in other locations like Tallinn, Estonia, in 2011—but Punkt is something that remains a conscious part of those who have been a part of it, all year around. Punkt isn't just a festival; it's a concept, a philosophy, an aesthetic, a family. And families aren't just put away because they'll not be seen for another year; they remain in the heart and the mind.

If Punkt could be a model for other festivals, it wouldn't be in terms of logistics, sound, lighting or even the music itself—though the way this small festival that thinks big operates, it could easily teach much larger festivals a thing or three. What Punkt can teach other festivals is that the best, most organic way to grow is through community, through shared goals and common ideals. Capture the heart and mind, and everything else follows.

Visit Sidsel Endresen, Supersilent, Maja Ratkje, Jan Bang, Håkon Kornstad, David Wallumrød, Unni Wilhelmsen, , Stian Westerhus, Knut Reiersrud, Nils Petter Molvær, John Paul Jones, Audun Kleive and Punkt Festival on the web.

Photo Credits

Page 1, 9, 11: John Kelman
Page 2, 3: Jan Hangeland

Page 4, Top: Jan Hangeland

Page 4, All Other Photos: John Kelman
Page 5, Top and Bottom: Jan Hangeland

Page 5, All Other Photos: John Kelman
Page 6, Top: Jan Hangeland

Page 6, All Other Photos: John Kelman
Page 7, All Other Photos: Jan Hangeland

Page 7, Top and Bottom: John Kelman
Page 7, All Other Photos: Jan Hangeland

Page 8, Top: Jan Hangeland

Page 8, All Other Photos: John Kelman
Page 10, Erik Honoré and Nils Petter Molvær Trio: Jan Hangeland

Page 10, All Other Photos: John Kelman



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