Ola Kvernberg – Steamdome III: Beyond The End

Review Ola Kvernberg – Steamdome III: Beyond The End

The steam dome has got its third part: The Steamdome project by Norwegian violinist and composer Ola Kvernberg, who is also a multi-instrumentalist on the side, has been expanded with a third album: Steamdome III: Beyond The End. This time there is even a symphony orchestra involved.

The Steamdome project began in December 2017 with the release of the first album, simply titled Steamdome. This already showed that it could be melodic, but also percussive. Steamdome II: The Hypogean followed in April 2021. Still with a drummer and two percussionists as rhythmic anchors, its genre mix was even more offensive and the music - released during the pandemic - was certainly particularly invigorating. The label called it "an hour of music therapy".

And now Steamdome III: Beyond the End. Still a drummer, now just a percussionist, but conductor Nick Davies with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, which is known to have a lot to offer in terms of percussion. And not only that. It embeds itself astonishingly naturally in Kvernberg's multifaceted compositions, giving the term jazz-rock orchestra a whole new dimension.

The anthemic marketing messages for the latest release are surprisingly restrained in terms of the scope of the announcement. All that can be gleaned from the lines is that Kvernberg is launching the gravity train and aiming to catapult us into the stratosphere. This is surprisingly thin for the third album in a series that for the first time includes a six-track mini-concept album: The Purple Jack, which incidentally is the name of a cannabis strain.

What was Kvernberg high when he composed? Should listeners ask their trusted dealer for the appropriate stimulants before enjoying the art? The PR machine, which was extremely communicative on the previous albums, remains silent - whether befuddled or clueless remains to be seen.

Fortunately, as we all know, to enjoy music you need two healthy ears and an open mind. And it is with keen ears that the gentle overture of The Purple Jack is followed by a heavy, driving reviver, the harbinger of a playful, flowery rallartando, which is followed by a sometimes menacing Tuxore as a counterpoint. Caught by the Largo Terminale, which takes up melodic elements of the Reviver, the trip - erm... - The Purple Jack closes with the cheerful reviveR - the palindrome is really written like that.

The two remaining tracks, Intermezzo and Monolith, confirm what the ear already knows: that the orchestra rocks hard. As a mood maker in several dimensions, it is not only the dispenser of delicate tones and the mediator of various emotions, it is also the cool other musician who joins in and immediately fits into the groove and feel - with 60 heads in personal union. That is a remarkable achievement.

The same goes for the mix. Even in very dense passages, it is easy to hear through without reducing the pressure, while filigree webs of sound fish gently through the ether, carrying their brilliance before them like acoustic stars. All in all, Steamdome III: Beyond the End offers over an hour of high-class musical enjoyment that is definitely worth a listen.

Highly recommended. (Thomas Semmler, HighResMac)

Ola Kvernberg, piano, violin, guitar, synthesizer-bass, synthesizer, percussion, drum machine programming
Erik Nylander, congas, percussion, drum set, drum machine programming
Nikolai Hængsle, electric bass
Olaf Olsen, drum set
Daniel Buner Formo, Hammond B3 organ, synthesizer, effects
Øyvind Blomstrøm, pedal steel guitar, electric guitar
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra
Nick Davies, conductor

Ola Kvernberg – Steamdome III: Beyond The End

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