September 6-8, 2013
Punkt is back. Three simple words with greater significance. While the annual festival, which has made its name on the strength of two additional wordsLive Remixhad an eighth edition in 2012 that, on paper, should have been nothing short of spectacular, it was ultimately not just disappointing but, for longtime attendees, something that actually engendered real anger.
The reasons were two-fold: first, invited festival curator Brian Eno
a producer and, at least at one time, forward-thinking musical innovatorchose to make the festival's raison d'être
completely secondary to a program of main stage acts that ranged from superb (Three Trapped Tigers, Ben Frost, Reggie Watts, múm) to good (Owen Palette, Guimba Kouyaté) to downright poor (S.C.U.M., EBE OKE). By not considering how the main stage acts would be grist for live remix (which Eno actually admitted in his press conference on the opening night), he took away the primary reason the festival was founded. Yes, there were
live remixes, and some good ones, too; but, equally, few included the interaction with live musicianslong part of the Punkt traditionand clearly seemed an afterthought rather than a fundamental part of the plan.
Second, while Kristiansand's wonderful new state of the art culture house, Kilden, was a remarkable building, it was simply too large, too sterile, too impresonal for a festival like Punkt, which thrives on intimacy and transparency.
Fixing the first problem was easy: for Punkt's ninth edition, co-Artistic Directors Jan Bang
and Erik Honore
were back in the curator chairs, and put together a program that may well have been one of its very best, including world premiers by Bang, for his new recording Narrative from the Subtropics
(Jazzland, 2013), and trumpeter Arve Henriksen
's Places of Worship
(Rune Grammofon, 2013), released on the same day as their double album release show. Punkt also featured the premiere of The Kilowatt Hour, a new electronic project by avant songsmith David Sylvian
, guitar sound sculptor Christian Fennesz
and electronics artist Stephan Mathieu, while trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer
closed the festival with the debut of his collaboration with programmer/synthesist Mortiz von Oswald, soon to be released as 1/1
(EmArcy, 2013). Additionally, Eivind Aarset
has been touring his leader debut for ECM, Dream Logic
, with his Sonic Codex group, but for his Punkt appearance, he added Bangwho collaborated with the guitarist on the recordingwhile Punkt fans had the chance to experience pianist/electronics innovator Bugge Wesseltoft
on a work-in-progress and a solo performance by singer/soundscapist Maja S.K. Ratkje
that ranks amongst her best.
As is typical of the ever-expanding Punkt network, there were some new faces, too: Ethiopian singer Eténèsh Wassié and French bass guitarist Mathieu Sourisseau made their first visit to the festival, and pianist Tigran Hamasyan
, too, in a wonderful duet with Bang that also had one of the surprises that are so typical of Punkt. Last, the festival opened with Mariam the Believer, featuring Mariam Wallentin, a tremendous singer/songwriter with a distinct voice and a terrific band to back her up.
And there were some tremendous remix potentials, including the live remix power trio of Bang, Honoré and singer Sidsel Endresen
; other remixers included Arve Henriksen; rising star trumpeter Mathias Eick
(making his first Punkt appearance); Huntsville
guitarist Ivar Grydeland
; Per Martinsen; classical composer Rolf Wallin (performing perhaps the year's most unusual remixmaybe even the most unusual in Punkt's nine- year existence); drummer Audun Kleive
and, back from Punkt 2012, Vladislav Delay.
But with Kilden out of the question, for a number of reasons but mainly because it was simply not the right venue for Punktand with its old home, the Agder Theatre, now out of the running, where to go? Choosing Kicka club that has, in the past, been used for the Punkt Elope series for young, up-and-coming artists, may not have seemed like an obvious choice; after all, there were no two rooms in which to set up main stage performances and the Alfa Room for live remixes. But adversity sometimes causes people to think outside the box and so, while there was some concern when it was announced that Kick would be used, and that they would somehow use its single stage for both main stage performances and
live remixes, there was also the trust in Bang, Honoré and the entire team of Punkt volunteers; if they felt it was possible, then it would
And it was. Not without the need to alter the mindset, and there were certainly some small snagsmany of which were ironed out as the weekend progressedbut 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 continuityalthough 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.