Punkt Festival 2008: Day 3-3
Day three of Punkt 08 ranked as one of the strongest of the past three years. What's remarkable about the programming in the Agder Theatre is the attention to details beyond the musicthough that would be enough. With lights and set design by Tord Knutsen, video by Jan Martin Vagen, and a team of Norway's best sound engineers including Geir Ostenjo, Frederik Rodberg, Kjell Morten Bruun, Elise Onseng, Phillip Moe and Mons Aasheim, Punkt sets the bar for sound and vision so high that it leaves most other festivals in its wake. Not only do the theatre shows sound clear and pristine whether it's a single fiddler like Nils Okland or a full group like Jon Hassell's Maarifa Street, but they are presented with a remarkable attention to the visual presentation.
Wibutee at Punkt 06
How the festival manages to implement not just swapping equipment for each performance while the audience is in the Alpha Room for a live remix, but complete set design changes, as they did for Wibutee's 2006 performance, is nearly impossible to imagine. Video screens come and go; stages are set up with long cloth panels that are lit separately; images of the performing artists are captured in real time, processed and projected; and so much more.
The final day of Punkt 08 featured some of the festival's most stunning designs, for some of its best performances.
- Oyonn Groven Myhren
- Live Remix: Arve Henriksen / Rafael Toral / Erik Honoré
- Hakon Kornstad / Nils Okland
- Live Remix: Hakon Kornstad / Eivind Buene / Jan Bang / Erik Honoré
- Jon Hassell and Maarifa Street
- Live remix: J. Peter Schwalm and Tim Harries
- Punkt 08 Wrap-Up
Continuing Punkt 08's collaboration with the traditional Arrin festival, singer Oyonn Groven Myhren opened the day up with a largely a capella performance that was entertaining even if her between- song introductions were all spoken, as the songs were sung, in Norwegian. Thanks again to AAJ photographer Jan Hangeland, it was possible to gain some insight into a storytelling tradition that also demonstrated how the same song could be interpreted many different ways, depending on which region of the country it came from.
Myhren possesses an interpretive voice, capable of the nuances that differentiate regional versions of the same material, and a confident ability to capture the sligtest, most fragile variation or sing with a relaxed power that highlighted some of the material's more dramatic nature.
That some of the material, dating back as much as 700 years, bore a conspicuous predilection for explicit sexual themes may have been surprising to some in the audience. Two songs dealt with a woman losing her virginityone, about the inability to reverse it, the other about trying to flee the country to save her lift. But there was lighter material as well, including a fairy tale-like song about a troll in the woods. Towards the end of her short set, Myhren brought out a seven-stringed harp, a beautifully spare accompaniment to a voice that took full advantage of the freedom to stretch and contrast time as it found new ways to interpret ancient material.
Every year Punkt features emerging artists, and often they deliver some of the festival's best performances. Splashgirl was an exciting discovery and one of Punkt 08's best shows, ranking as the surprise of the year and not just at the festival.
Featuring pianist Andreas Stensland Lowewho also played with the far rockier and high decibal Lama as part of Punkt Elope on Day One drummer Andreas Lonmo Knudsrod and bassist Jo Berger Myhre, the group was the ideal example of the remarkable maturity and creativity coming out of young Norwegian groups. With a sound that blended spare, near-ambient textures with majestic yet understated neoclassicism and outer-reaching but always captivating free improvisations, Splashgirl is a group that deserves a wider audience and, if it can get some proper exposure, no doubt will.
Lowe, who also coordinated Punkt Elope, is the group's primary composer, combining prepared piano techniques, a Steve Reichian attention to the value of repetitive motifs and a virtuosity that's kept completely under control by an attention to space and the value of a note in decay. He cued the group through episodic compositions that often covered considerable stylistic territory in surprisingly short timeframes. He also used a bowed acoustic guitar which, along with Myhre's autoharp and Knudsrod's vibes, created a warm audioscape as referential to folk music as it was classical romanticism and ambient music to open the set, gradually moving to a repetitive pattern that sounded like a gentler version of pianist Nik Bartsch's Ronin performance the previous evening.
The group also featured guest pedal steel guitarist Anders Hofstad Soras throughout much of the show, creating a lovely blend with Knudsrod's vibes later in the set. Trace elements of Brian Eno, Ketil Bjornstad, Erik Satie and Morton Feldman mixed with the hypnotic aspects of groups like Sigur Ros on a set that drew in part from its debut, Doors. Keys (AIM Records, 2007), though in a largely acoustic environment, though there was some processing involved throughout.
Splashgirl is just finishing up its second disc and, if the response from the audience and the group's distinctly compelling identity are any indication, this is unquestionably a group from which more will be heard in the future. With an attention-grabbing performance that relied on a mature devotion to space, interaction that was never overt but was an underscoring foundation, and a collective approach to interpreting cross-genre material, Splashgirl is a group already delivering on its strong potential.