Arve Henriksen and The Necks keep pushing remix boundaries at PUNKT

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Now in its 13th year, Jan Bang and Erik Honoré's PUNKT festival continues its path finder mission to melt genre boundaries with the 'leveller' of a live remix, performed by nearly every artist involved. Yet, anyone who's witnessed this sonic alchemy will attest that an immediate reinterpretation of another, often revered, musician's music is equal parts inspiring and daunting. It may well be second nature to live sampling savants like Bang and Honoré, and their brothers in electronically-treated bitches brewing, but not so much to this year's artist-in-residence, old school über-producer Daniel Lanois. It was his task to remix Aussie avant-jazz soundscapers The Necks (below), who were strangely front-loaded on the bill with an early evening performance that still managed to gain its own gravitational pull: Chris Abrams' diaphanous jazz-inflected piano chiming over Tony Buck's sleigh-bell rhythms and bassist Lloyd Swanton adroitly bowed bass. By all accounts less bombastically rhythmic than they can sometimes be, The Necks used their 45-minutes of freedom to the max, building a rolling momentum that saw a single chord engorge to rippling waves of piano arpeggios, rumbling bass thrums and broiling drums, eventually breaking into a soft tidal calm, washing over the crowd.

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A promising opening gambit for a night of improvised music making then. Yet, Lanois (below) and his extremely talented bass-and-drums team of Jim Wilson and Kyle Crane, seemed unable to shift into the imposingly open space left so graciously by The Necks, as a sample from the bass and some piano soon become subsumed in some distinctly pub-rock like jams, which chugged to an abrupt halt in about a third of their allotted 'remix' time. Disappointing this may have been, but Lanois did redeem himself the following day with his own blues-rock powered set the following night, which included some effective sweetly harmonised vocals between himself and bassist Wilson. What Lanois' appearance (following those of Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson and David Sylvian) at this small, perfectly formed and influential festival underscores is the risk of inviting a 'celebrity' musician to participate in this most mercurial of experimental events.

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The Saturday evening programme was bookended by two sets from impishly brilliant trumpeter/singer Arve Henriksen (pictured top and bottom) who seems incapable of playing or uttering a note that doesn't cut straight to the heart. Opening with his Towards Language band of Bang and Honoré, and ubiquitous guitar-soundscapist Eivind Aarset, the group acted more as a single entity, as deep chordal swells mingled with hushed trumpet lines and strangely funky electro pulses. This was given an emphatically minimalist remix by arch Brit experimentalist and author David Toop (who'd dazzled the previous day in startling duo with Sidsel Endresen, pictured below) and filed recordings fiend Jez riley French, before the PUNKT Ensemble of young players effectively emulated their ambient jazz heroes a little too closely to really stand on their own merits. The ensuing remix was dryly minimalist thanks to French electronica artist Yann Coppier's wry sense of space and texture which melded into the crunching, off-kilter grooves of Peter Balden and DJ Strangefruit.

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With Lanois' Trio burning through the midnight oil in the first part of their set, the final tunes saw guitar and bass supplanted by keyboard and synth-bass as Lanois played samples of his desert home, demonstrating he's not immune to exploring deeper moods beyond artfully sculpted stadium rock. Thankfully it was Henriksen who was afforded the last word, literally googling Lanois' lyrics to speak and sing them over the final remix with drummer Audun Kleive (below) joining the Nordic throng.

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The trumpeter's preacher-style declamations and gravelly nuanced annunciation lent Lanois' words a haunting, prophetic gravitas. Henriksen's ability to pluck beauty from the virtual air and throw it into the evening's six-hour music marathon with samurai-like skill and timing is redolent of an artist who's used to creating musical poetry on-the-edge and in the moment.

– Mike Flynn

– Photos by Petter Sandell