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Punkt postponed

Punkt 1

The news that this week’s Punkt festival in Birmingham has been postponed is no surprise. Live music of any sort in a public setting is going to be unavailable to most people for some time to come, but the loss of this two-day event will be keenly felt. As I discovered at its Norwegian home in Kristiansand last year, Punkt is a very special event, conceived by Jan Bang and Erik Honoré as a vehicle for the exploration of the possibilities of live remixing.

Among those due to perform in Birmingham were the trumpeter/singer Arve Henriksen, the guitarist Eivind Aarset, the singer Maja S. K. Ratkje, the saxophonist Trish Clowes and the drummer Mark Sanders. Also on the schedule was a live remix of The Height of the Reeds, the piece specially commissioned to accompany walks across the Humber Bridge during Hull’s year as Europe’s city of culture in 2017.

I can think of only one direct way of making up for the loss of the festival, and that’s by listening to new albums by some of the Punkt’s principal figures. Snow Catches on Her Eyelashes finds Aarset and Bang creating a series of beguiling soundscapes that feature contributions from the singer Sidsel Endresen, the trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, the pianist Hilde Norbakken, the percussionist Anders Engen and the bassist Audun Erlien, with Honoré making an appearance on synthesiser. Bang and Aarset specialise in making electronic music that never forfeits its humanity to science. “Before the Wedding”, featuring Norbakken, has a lyrical simplicity that is as lovely as anything you’ll hear this year.

Arve Henriksen’s The Timeless Nowhere is a box containing four vinyl LPs, each in its own sleeve, each recorded under different circumstances. Towards Language was recorded live at Kick Scene in Kristiansand during Punkt in 2017 with the basic quartet complete by Bang, Aarset and Honoré. Acousmograph is a series of overdubbed solo explorations for trumpet, vocal, keyboards and field recordings. The rapt tone poems of Captured Under Mountainsides make it a close cousin to Henriksen’s classic Places of Worship. And Cryosphere involves Bang in exquisite remixes of pieces from earlier projects.

There are many different strategies here. Henriksen’s music can morph from stateliness to pathos, from reflection to disquiet, sometimes layering contradictory states. But it feels all of a piece: a tapestry of beautiful moments woven together by a unique controlling sensibility of superlative aesthetic instincts.

Meanwhile, the chaos around us at the moment prompts all sorts of thoughts. One is that musicians are going to suffer badly from this enforced hiatus, and a way of continuing to support them is to buy their physical records. Another is this: what happens to music that was never played?

* Snow Catches on Her Eyelashes is on Jazzland Records. The Timeless Nowhere is on Rune Grammofon. The photograph — taken in Kristiansand’s cathedral, the Domkirken, last year — shows (from left) Jan Bang, Arve Henriksen, Eivind Aarset and Erik Honoré.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mick Steels #

    Cocoon yourself in the splendid collaboration by Aarset and Bang to experience music ideally suited for these troubled times

    March 18, 2020
  2. GRAHAM ROBERTS #

    Yes, Richard, at this time it will be more important than ever to support musicians by buying the physical records – although I suspect that for many of us we do that anyway because there is so much great recorded music around; why wouldn’t we want to have it at home in these current troubled times? I do hope, though, that you will be able to continue to keep us informed of some of the terrific music we could be listening to through your excellent posts; I have been listening to Arve Henriksen’s superb ‘The Timeless Nowhere’ set for some weeks now, but I’m pretty sure that ‘Snow Catches On Her Eyelashes’ might have passed under my radar had you not drawn attention to it. Very many thanks.

    March 19, 2020
  3. tonydudleyevans #

    Great piece. Can I draw everyone’s attention to a streaming by Stillefelt, the band led by Chris Mapp with Percy Pursglove and Tom Ford which was to play a major role in Punkt Birmingham. They are streaming this Friday at 8.30 and there will be a remix by Elda with Andrew Woodhead and Mark Sanders. You can access this at http://www.facebook.com/punktbirmingham.

    March 19, 2020
  4. David Reynolds #

    Thanks Richard. Will order Snow Catches … Sound wonderful. Always good to read you, particularly in these strange times.

    March 19, 2020
  5. GuitarSlinger #

    Good advice Richard … BUT …

    The tough reality as fans y’all need to deal with in these trying times is ;

    WE … as in we the musicians and composers make bupkis … nada … nunka … next to nothing when you download . Like less than 1/100th of a cent per download … at best .

    Whereas unless the artist signed a really horrid contract [ which is his or her fault and no one else’s ] .. we make at least a buck per hard copy sale

    So .. and here’s the difficult .part due to all the closers and lockdowns … if you want to help your favorite musician get thru this abyss we’re in … buy the hard copy … be it CD or vinyl … otherwise … well … sadly … you’re only helping the server you downloaded from

    Rock On – Remain Calm ( despite it all ) and do Carry On .. cause as bad as this may become … ” All Things Must Pass ” 😎

    March 19, 2020
  6. Something new from Sidsel – how exciting, I can’t wait to hear it! She’s released very little in the last few years. Now, if only I could fall back in love with Arve’s music. I was big fan from Sakuteiki to Strjon. I saw him play live a number of times and the Supersilent concert at the QEH was stunning. How strange, but I’m working at it and trying to recover that connection.

    March 21, 2020
  7. dpcoffey #

    Maja Ratkje is a multi-instrumentalist and a composer, in addition to being a vocalist. She has a varied and excellent discography – her work with the free-jazz collective SPUNK is particularly noteworthy.

    March 21, 2020

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