JPJ @ PUNKT 2010 FESTIVAL - REVIEW:
September 4th Concert: Supersilent and a Surprise Guest
Punkt may be, in terms of size, a small festival; but it's one that has, since inception, been gaining an international reputation in leaps and bounds. Brian Eno attended the festival in 2008, and contributed his 77 Million Paintings for Punkt, multimedia installation, to Punkt Kunst, at the S&#248;rlandets Kunstmuseum; British avant-singer David Sylvian, who already has ties to Punkt through work with some of its regulars—not to mention releasing Jan Bang's ...and poppies from Kandahar on his SamadhiSound label, contributing both the album and track titles—is rumored to be interested in attending in a future year. But nobody would have expected an ex-member of British rock group Led Zeppelin to be in attendance at Punkt, much less performing at it.
It was inevitable, however, after Zeppelin bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones attended Punkt in London, in 2008. Excited by what he saw and heard, he decided to make the trip to Kristiansand, initially as an attendee. But, bringing his bass and a laptop computer along, he offered to perform a short opening set somewhere during the program; setting up at the same time as Norwegian noise improv group Supersilent on the afternoon of the last day, however, one thing led to another, and the next thing everyone knew, Jones was not only going to do his opening set for Supersilent; he was going to sit in with them as well.
Those only familiar with Jones' Zeppelin work might find this an odd combination, but Jones has been a sonic experimenter long after Zeppelin was over; since the group's demise in 1980, Jones has collaborated with artists including Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. At the turn of the millennium, Jones released two albums that focused on his multi-instrumentalism and, collaborating on one of them, with King Crimson co-founder Robert Fripp, he found himself on tour co- headlining with Crimson. He's been involved in soundtrack work as well, and it was from a score to a dance piece that Jones culled the solo bass performance that opened Supersilent's set.
Of course, armed with a laptop computer—this was Punkt, after all— this was no conventional bass solo, as Jones began with relatively normal textures, but gradually moved to greater extremes, using ring modulation to create oblique harmonies, overdrive to create dense textures, and assorted other effects to create a piece that ebbed and flowed, building to periodic climaxes only to settle and begin the climb once again. Beautiful chords gave way to angular expressionism, as Jones delivered a short set that, for those unfamiliar with his post-Zep work, must have been a shock to the system, but set a clear context for the collaboration with Supersilent to follow.
Despite Jones' inherent star power, when Supersilent took to the stage, he became just another member of the band; with Henriksen beginning the set on trumpet, Ståle Storløkken on synth, and Helge Sten on guitar, Jones moved towards the back of the stage, where he stayed for most of a set that went far longer than its allotted time— clearly everyone was having a blast.
Henriksen, in particular, seemed to be enjoying playing drums during a set that went from thunderous climax to thunderous climax; and who wouldn't? Henriksen may be no John Bonham, but he grooved harder than usual during the first extended improvisation, as he locked in, for brief moments, with Jones. Still, while Supersilent may be about free improvisation with rock energy and volume, Jones' participation did nothing to slow down the group's remarkable chemistry. It sounded, in fact, as if they'd been playing together for years, as Jones moved around the neck to create, deep, visceral and snaking lines beneath Sten's sonic manipulations, Storløkken textural excursions and otherworldly electronic melodism, and Henriksen—who moved from kit to trumpet to falsetto and harsher growl to pocket trumpet.
Again, Tord Knudsen's lighting complemented the performance perfectly; in many ways, Supersilent has always been about anonymity—its releases bearing identical designs other than the primary color, no personnel listings other than producer and engineer, where and when the album was recorded, and song titles that are nothing more than the number of the album and the track number. Even watching the group in performance, outside of some of the obvious sonics, there was a lot going on which could not be easily attributed to any one member of the group. Improvisations were collective, with no real delineated solos (even though everyone did, without direct intent, draw specific focus at different times throughout the set), and so Knudsen's lighting, rather than illuminating the group members, actually went even further to blend them into the visual backdrop; Henriksen, in fact, sometimes more visible on the rear projection than he ever was with direct lighting.
All of which makes Supersilent a unique experience. But with the group's demonstration seminar earlier in the festival providing some perspective on what they do and how they do it, the group's evening performance with Jones, on the last day of Punkt 2010, was a definitive moment in the history of the festival. Jones' appearance at Punkt 2010 will undoubtedly place the festival on an entirely different radar; one that will only increase its international visibility and allow it to expand even further into areas previously unreachable.
By JOHN KELMAN
September 14, 2010
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