ROUND-UP: Punkt Festival 2014, Norway

Arve Henriksen and Laurie Anderson at Punkt 2014
Photo Credit: Luca Vitali

Punkt Festival
(Kristiansand, Norway 4-6 September 2014 Round-Up by Fiona Talkington)

Musicians thrive on danger, risk and challenge. Of which there are plenty at the annual Punkt Festival in Kristiansand.

This month co-directors Jan Bang and Erik Honoré hosted the 10th Punkt in their home city in the south of Norway attracting their usual international, creatively inquisitive audience, and musicians from near and far who were willing to put themselves on the line. Punkt is known for its core ‘live remix’ concept, (Bang and Honoré are renowned masters in their field) and the thrill of the chase comes very often when the audience is exposed to the remix immediately after the concert, with yet another set of musicians as guest improvisers alongside. It’s a risky business, but anyone who has experienced 10 years of this high octane adrenalin will agree that these are moments to cherish for a lifetime. For me – a Punkt regular since the first festival 2005 – the Sidsel Endresen/Bang/Honoré remix of Sweet Billy Pilgrim stands out as a true classic for its ability to drill into the concert and elicit something new, yet different and, yes, full of danger.

Christian Fennesz at Punkt 2014
Photo Credit: Luca Vitali

This year’s final remix by Christian Fennesz (above) was a case in point, a lone figure behind his lap-top on side of stage during the much anticipated Arve Henriksen and Laurie Anderson concert. While this duo’s first meeting gave hints of what the two might go on to produce together – Laurie’s feisty fiddle playing, Arve’s whispering trumpet – Fennesz’s remix showed no mercy and fuelled a high speed take-off in partnership with a key figure at Punkt, lighting designer and live visuals wizard Tord Knudsen. Out of this Fennesz hinted at the lyricism we had heard in the concert with plaintive guitar chords. The audience was breathless. And Punkt was over for another year.

It had been an interesting year: unusually an opening acoustic night featuring John Tilbury with Keith Rowe and visual artist Kjell Bjorgeengen performing Beckett’s ‘Worstward Ho’, a pairing of Norwegian super-duos Streifenjunko and Sheriffs of Nothingness, and music by Håkon Stene’s ensemble who played music by Laurence Crane, Christian Wallumrød and Gavin Bryars. We missed the remixes on that first night, but were instead cocooned in a world of intense concentration and razor-sharp flashes of wit, Tilbury’s taped voice reciting Beckett in our heads for hours afterwards.

Erik Honoré’s ensemble performed the launch concert of his debut solo album (extraordinary for someone who has produced and been part of over 50 other albums) Heliographs. The music is finely crafted (Honoré himself is also a writer) beautifully sculpted, yet also has a thread of darkness, brooding and menace in cloaks of true Nordic noir.

Jan Bang proudly showed off one of his own finds, the Dutch experimental string quartet Zapp 4 with whom he had been working in the Netherlands. They make a beguiling quintet with hints of Janacek, Bartok and Richard Strauss whipping up a frenzied standing ovation from the audience.

Morten Qvenild at Punkkt 2014
Photo Credit: Luca Vitali

Punkt makes huge demands on its audience. The music takes up a long evening from 6pm until midnight, and the daytime this year had a larger than usual programme of seminars (including such gems as Laurie Anderson, Morten Qvenild (above) on his hyperpiano, and the entertaining and brilliant Zapp 4) and listening programmes which included Punkt’s own almost resident poet Nils Christian Moe Repstad, local musician Terje Paulsen, and recordist and sound artist Jana Winderen exploring the ocean depths with Mike Harding of Touch.

Bang and Honoré talk about the ‘Punkt family’ which isnot about some cosy clique but about the loyalty which has grown up with the festival, both in terms of local support, core musicians (Nils Petter Molvaer, Sidsel Endresen, Eivind Aarset and Arve Herniksen have been present most years) and international guests such as David Sylvian, John Paul Jones and Brian Eno. They have travelled to Punkt London, Punkt Tallinn, Punkt Paris and beyond and forged new relationships with local artists.

It was my pleasure as on stage host to present the directors with a signed book to mark Punkt 10. From the comments both sent in and written during the festival it’s clear that quality, inspiration and risk are a hugely important part of the lives of audiences and musicians alike. As David Sylvian described it “one of the most musician/artist friendly festivals in which to participate”.



Categories: miscellaneous

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