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Pust

Femkant (2007)

5.0

May 10, 2008

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 5.0
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 4.3
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 Turlutte 33 4.7
2 Femkantgeneralen 4.7
3 Helene Harefrøken 4.3
4 Time after time 4.3
5 I won't grow up 4.0
6 Sagostunden 4.7
7 Jeg tenker så titt på min bryllupsdag 5.0
8 Bruremarsj fra Sørfold 4.3
9 Innocent 5.0
10 Dat dere 4.0
11 Moon over Bourbon street 4.0
12 Slipsteinsvæilsen 4.3
13 Take a look in the mirror 5.0
14 Vaggviselåt 5.0

Recorded 2007
Total time: 46:49, 14 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Turlutte 33 5
2 Femkantgeneralen 5
3 Helene Harefrøken 4
4 Time after time 5
5 I won't grow up 4
6 Sagostunden 5
7 Jeg tenker så titt på min bryllupsdag 5
8 Bruremarsj fra Sørfold 4
9 Innocent 5
10 Dat dere 4
11 Moon over Bourbon street 4
12 Slipsteinsvæilsen 4
13 Take a look in the mirror 5
14 Vaggviselåt 5

Pust's most recent release, Femkant, is a study in contrasts. Spunky jazz tunes sit next to haunting traditional melodies. While following the transitions is sometimes difficult, Pust imbues each track with a profound sense of musicality and professionalism. Femkant ultimately proves a compelling listen.

Many of the tracks on Femkant are light, airy and playful. This Norwegian sextet sounds bubbly and cheery as they perform tracks about a Bugs Bunny-like rabbit trickster outsmarting a hunter (Helene Harefrøken), or about a young child trying to convince a parent to buy "dat big elephant over dere". Even more affable is alto Elisabeth Anvik singing tongue-in-cheekily about not wanting to become a man in the Peter Pan classic I won't grow up. The singers seem equally comfortable in English and Norwegian, and clearly have a sense of humor and a fun way of looking at life.

Yet the album's high points are the more traditional, folk-like tracks. Many of the tracks without lyrics sounded stark, haunting, and ethereally beautiful. The purity of the melodies in Jeg tenker så titt på min bryllupsdag and Innocent strike right to the core, and as the harmonies build it is impossible not to be swept away. Many tracks feature pedal tones in the upper men's voices, which I found interesting and highly effective. I could easily listen to a full disc from Pust with no lyrics, and I would take it any day over Femkant's varied track list.

Overall, Femkant is professional all the way. Musicality is superb, blend amazing. Production is stellar, complementing but never overpowering the voices. Femkant is a top-notch album all the way around.

Femkant has everything an a cappella fan could want: beauty, emotion, and wonderfully sung music. Even to the English listener, it is a treat. Now if only the a cappella scene would gain as much traction in the US as it has in Northern Europe.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Turlutte 33 5
2 Femkantgeneralen 5
3 Helene Harefrøken 5
4 Time after time 4
5 I won't grow up 5
6 Sagostunden 5
7 Jeg tenker så titt på min bryllupsdag 5
8 Bruremarsj fra Sørfold 5
9 Innocent 5
10 Dat dere 5
11 Moon over Bourbon street 4
12 Slipsteinsvæilsen 5
13 Take a look in the mirror 5
14 Vaggviselåt 5

Groups wishing to push the boundaries of a modern cappella would do well to listen to Femkant, a spellbinding winner from Norway's Pust.

Pust describes their sound as "voiceplay". Since I'm hard-pressed to find a more accurate description, I'll enthusiastically agree. Five of the tracks on Femkant have no lyrics, built instead from vocalizations and unique syllables laced around difficult rhythmic patterns, rich dissonance, and breathtaking harmonies. It seems unfair to simply say Pust sings at an "advanced level": it's more like their own level, one that's intensely controlled and fascinating to hear. Sagostunden exemplifies their style perfectly, sounding effortlessly futuristic with a middle made from creative musical noise. Innocent seems to be the follow-up to Sagostunden, with more mysteriousness and an eerie continuous pulse. You're just going to have to listen to this album for these descriptions to make sense.

One area of comprehensible praise is Pust's versatile soloists. Elisabeth Anvik gracefully manages multiple vocal colors on I won't grow up, ranging from light and carefree to firm and sultry against an old-time feel. Håvard Gravdal shows off his tremendous skill on wedding march Bruremarsj fra Sørfold, full of trills and flips, while gradually building to the song's breathtaking end. But more impressively, each soloist on Femkant really delivers. These are masterful performances, the kind too good to imitate.

My criticisms are minimal and subjective. Perhaps Time after time would benefit from a quicker tempo and less solemn sound. Moon over Bourbon street sounds too reserved, and a touch too empty. But, some will love these songs for the reasons I carped.

Femkant is outstanding, Pust is remarkable, and you'll be a proud owner of this album.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 4
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Turlutte 33 4
2 Femkantgeneralen 4
3 Helene Harefrøken 4
4 Time after time 4
5 I won't grow up 3
6 Sagostunden 4
7 Jeg tenker så titt på min bryllupsdag 5
8 Bruremarsj fra Sørfold 4
9 Innocent 5
10 Dat dere 3
11 Moon over Bourbon street 4
12 Slipsteinsvæilsen 4
13 Take a look in the mirror 5
14 Vaggviselåt 5

These Norwegians can sing. The tonal and stylistic control they exhibit throughout Femkant blows most vocal groups out of the water.

Some of the songs succeed more than others, but the consistent vocal prowess makes the entire album enjoyable. The tuning sounds natural, with none of the editing artifacts we have come to accept. Pust creates moods and vibes and drama without any fancy effects or multilayered vocal percussion. In short, they're just damn good singers.

World folk music is clearly the main strength of this sextet. The vocal acrobatics and world music vocal techniques seem to come easily. The dense jazz chords lock, and the voicing flows gracefully, but the jazz tunes suffer from lack of accessibility. In some cases — Dat dere, I won't grow up — the lyrics are distractingly awkward. Many songs, including the opening two tracks, have syllables that sound lingual, but are actually just crazy syllables. While I enjoyed the songs and found the rhythmic dynamics and complexity impressive, I am a little unclear on their thematic intent.

Pust sounds less awesome in English. Time after time and Bourbon Street work better than the other English songs, thanks to absolutely stellar leads (with a nod to the endearing accent in the former).

Innocent and Vaggviselat are the strongest tracks. Innocent will stick in your head for days — it's one of those haunting, wandering melodies that can take any number of forms. Vaggviselat is simply beautiful, and, more than any of the other non-English songs, the music translates the text for all of us who don't understand the original. All of Pust's musical and vocal talents come together on these two songs.

The language problems in the jazz tunes and the vagueness of artistic intent in the non-lingual songs hurt the overall accessibility of the album, but the more creative folk music is sure to drop more jaws than just mine. If you enjoy feeling absolutely vocally inferior, then you will need to acquire Femkant.

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