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Punkt Festival 2014

Henning Bolte By

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The album's title originates from Honoré's first novel Orakelveggen (Oracle Routes). The opening chapter of the book contains a fictional account of the development of photography nearly 200 years ago. Frenchman Joseph Niépce was the first, in 1822, to apply a procedure of light gravure, which he called heliography—writing with sunlight. The process used Bitumen of Judea, a naturally occurring asphalt, as a coating on glass or metal. It hardened in proportion to its exposure to light. When the plate was washed with oil of lavender, only the hardened areas remained. This concept is an illuminative cue to the album's nature, its bringing into relief from dark substratum which can also serve as a metaphor for the reverse characterstics of media—and life—and might trigger reflection (!) on the common properties of light and sound.

Stoically, the pulsing, humming, undulating dark-textured drone uncoiled with subliminal expectation of ebullitions, small and big bumps, de-railings or sudden outbursts. Bruisma's violin viscerally silhouetted against the background and shed tonal lights—even more intense as a new not yet fully adapted voice. Aarset's guitar eventually started soaring with a strong Oriental tinge; meanwhile, the dark soundscape was shifting from close-up to frontal view, and vice versa. Later still, Bruinsma's violin returned to the center with the beauty of a lost voice in the dark, as Henriksen and Aarset echoed each other in the vast sea of sound before the loud and cacophonous outburst of "Strife" took place. Honoré finished with "Sanctuary Revisited," crossfading into Morten Qvenild and Arve Henriksen's duo remix. Their remix turned into a softly vibrating curve with loopings of Bruisma's violin and Henriksen's own singing, joined by Qvenild's slowly emerging organ. But Qvenild is not a man to dwell; very soon he went against it, shattering and shaking. Finally, humor won out over severity through Qvenild's well-timed twist. The remix was a kind of extended coda that marked a new entrance.

Guitarist Christian Fennesz (pronounced /fenness/) returned to Punkt this year after playing, in 2013, with David Sylvian and Stephan Mathieu in The Kilowatt Hour. Fennesz's guitar is maybe one of the loudest beauty: no matter how loud he is playing, the beauty in it remains. It is, however, not a question of sheer volume, it is Fennesz's combination and fine-tuning of vibrations, and overdriven sounds on the edge of interference noise. No matter how loud and overdriven, a core quality remained clearly recognizable throughout. The thundering and roaring also set free lots of musical recollections, recognizable elements...even motifs, shining through the massive noise.

Fennesz is closely connected to the Viennese Polwechsel musicians, which is not self-evident at first sight/ear. Polwechsel bassist Werner Dafeldecker and Polwechsel drummer Martin Brandlmayr both participated in Fennesz's just-released Bécs (pronounced /baeetch/, the Hungarian name for Vienna). Polwechsel, in turn, is connected to and collaborates with John Tilbury and David Sylvian.

Fennesz played his solo set stoically, with only few adjusting actions on his laptop and switchboard on a table—no armada of pedals. Very loud swooshing and swishing, very simple motifs, all enlarged and extended, like a starting, departing and ascending airplane. Breaks were timed very well to redirect the attention. He even went into Albatross mode very briefly, and started a frenzied repetitive ascending guitar riff that led the heartbeat to a higher rate. And then, he went out of it just before it came to close to its own secondary cliché. It seems that he tried to let it go, emerging from the parameters set at the start to let it sing as much as possible.

To enter a remix of Fennesz by a string quartet could be called bold, and bold it was. It was also the quartet's very first appearance at the Punkt Festival, a double challenge and a test. Bang and Honoré hit the stage, immediately after Fennesz's performance, with Dutch string men Jeffrey Bruinsma (violin), Jasper le Clercq (violin), Oene van Geel (viola) and Emile Visser (cello): the tight quartet, Zapp.

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