OLA KVENBERG-STEAMDOME.

Ola Kvernberg-Steamdome. 

Label: Grappa.

Release Date: June ‘8th’ 2018.

Three years after award-winning Norwegian fiddler Ola Kvernberg released his critically acclaimed album The Mechanical Fair, he will return with the much-anticipated followup Steamdome, which will be released by Grappa on June the ‘8th’ 2018. Steamdome is another album of innovative and imaginative music from Ola Kvernberg, which he recorded with a handpicked band that features the great and good of Norwegian music. They play their part in what’s one of the most ambitious albums of Ola Kvernberg’s musical career, which began when he was a teenager. 

Ola Kvernberg was born in Fræna, in the region of Romsdal, on the ’16th’ of June 1981, and was introduced to music at an early age. Before long, Ola Kvernberg was playing folk music, although he was classically trained when he attended the local municipal music school. This stood him in good stead when he embarked upon a musical career as a teenager.

By the time he was fourteen, Ola Kvernberg was a member of the group Fear Of Flying, who released their debut album in 1995. Just two years later, in 1997, Ola Kvernberg changed direction musically and started playing jazz. 

The Early Years.

Just three years later, in 2000, Ola Kvernberg came to prominence after he met and jammed with the Belgian-American jazz musician Toots Thielemans at the annual Django festival in Oslo. That was also where Ola Kvernberg met the Norwegian string jazz quartet Hot Club de Norvège which resulted in him collaborating on the album Hot Club De Norvege Featuring Ola Kvernberg and Jimmy Rosenberg which was released later in 2000.By then, nineteen year old Ola Kvernberg had come a long way in a short space of time.

The following year, 2001, Ola Kvernberg enrolled on the prestigious two-year jazz program at the Trondheim musikkonservatorium, which has produced many top Norwegian musicians. However, Ola Kvernberg wasn’t willing to put his musical career on hold during his studies.

Just like many previous graduates of the jazz program, Ola Kvernberg was able to juggle his studies with his musical career, and later in 2001, released his debut album Violin to plaudits and praise. Little did anyone realise that it would be another thirteen years before he returned with the followup to Violin.

Ola Kvernberg Trio.

Having just released his debut album, Ola Kvernberg decided to form his own trio and brought onboard was bassist Steinar Raknes and American guitarist Doug Raney. They were soon recording their debut album, and in 2002 the Ola Kvernberg Trio released Cats and Doug. Sadly, this was the only album that this lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio released.

In 2003, twenty-two year old Ola Kvernberg graduated from the Trondheim musikkonservatorium and continued his musical career. The composer, bandleader and sometime solo artist was often asked to play with other artists and had already worked with Hot Club de Norvège and Angelo Debarre. This was all good experience for Ola Kvernberg and helped him to mature as a musician.

By 2005, Doug Raney had left the Ola Kvernberg Trio and was replaced by drummer Erik Nylander, who made his debut during a production of Eboue Seck’s Wolof Experience at Moldejazz 2005. In 2006, the new lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio played with guitarist Vidar Busk and accompanied drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen during the Vossajazz festival. The Ola Kvernberg Trio also released their much-anticipated sophomore album Night Driver in 2006. This was the first recording to feature the new lineup of the Ola Kvernberg Trio.

Three years later, and the Ola Kvernberg Trio returned with their third album Folk, which found favour with critics. Just like Night Driver it was written and produced by Ola Kvernberg, who was about to embark upon a new chapter in his career.

A New Chapter.

This was writing film music, and in 2010 Ola Kvernberg was nominated for an Amanda Award for the soundtrack to movie Nord. While Ola Kvernberg didn’t win the Amanda Award, his career writing soundtracks was about to blossom.

Before that, Ola Kvernberg released his new jazz album Liarbird in September 2011. Critical acclaim accompanied the release of Liarbird, which later in 2011, won a Spellemannprisen Award, the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy Award for the best jazz album. This was first of several awards that Ola Kvernberg received over the next couple of years.

In 2012, Ola Kvernberg won the prestigious Kongsberg Jazz Award, and in 2013, won the Kanon Award and Amanda Award for his soundtrack the movie Jag etter vind. Ola Kvernberg’s career as a film composer was blossoming, but be still he found time to record and release a new album with his trio.

Four years after the release of Folk, the Ola Kvernberg Trio returned with their eagerly awaited fourth album Northern Tapes. It was released to critical acclaim in 2013, and is regarded as one the Ola Kvernberg Trio’s finest albums. Buoyed by the success of Northern Tapes, Ola Kvernberg decided that the time was right to record a new solo album.

The Mechanical Fair,

This was The Mechanical Fair which was credited to Ola Kvernberg and The Trondheim Soloists. It was a groundbreaking album that had been recorded during April and August 2014. When it was released, The Mechanical Fair was described as a masterful album from Ola Kvernberg that was innovative and imaginative. It wasn’t going to be easy to surpass The Mechanical Fair, but if anyone was capable of doing so it was Ola Kvernberg.

Steamdome.

Buoyed by the commercial success and critical acclaim that The Mechanical Fair received, Ola Kvernberg began work on a new solo album. This would eventually become Steamdome which was written by Ola Kvernberg, who then began putting together an all-star band who would record the followup to The Mechanical Fair.

Ola Kvernberg took great care choosing the musicians that would accompany him on Steamdome, and eventually, had put together a band that featured some of Norway’s top musicians. However, playing a leading role in the sound and success of Steamdome was a triumvirate of innovative drummers.

The drummers that Ola Kvernberg chose were Hans Hulbækmo, Børge Fjordheim and Erik Nylander, who were brought in to add the rhythmical patterns, beat and groove that are the dominant elements on Steamdome. To do this, the three drummers  also used deployed bongos, pandeiro, percussion and tambourine which  ensured that the arrangements barrelled, charged and galloped along before changing tack and heading in a different direction.  

Joining the three drummers in the rhythm section were bassist Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen and guitarist Øyvind Blomstrøm who also plays pedal steel and baritone guitar. They were joined by Daniel Buner Formo who plays Hammond organ. This was a much smaller band than featured on The Mechanical Fair. That was no surprise as bandleader, composer and producer Ola Kvernberg was about to become a one man band as he switched  between violin and viola to drums, guitar, Hammond organ, harmonium, percussion, synth and theremin as Steamdome sessions began at Ocean Sound Studio, Giske, on January the ’29th’ 2017. 

By the ‘31st’ of January 2017 Ola Kvernberg and his small but talented band had completed Steamdome. This left Ola Kvernberg to take care of some post production which was completed in March and May 2017. After that, Mattias Glavå mixed Steamdome, which was mastered by Morten Stendahl. 

Once the mastering was complete, Ola Kvernberg could begin working towards the release of Steamdome in Norway, and then internationally. Now just over a year after Steamdome was completed, Ola Kvernberg’s much anticipated followup to The Mechanical Fair is about to be released. Steamdome has been worth every minute of the three-year wait.

Opening Steamdome is Prologue, a slow, moody and cinematic soundscape that sounds as if it’s been inspired to one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Ola Kvernberg’s experience writing movie soundtracks is apparent as this ruminative filmic track unfolds and reveals its secrets.

A lone organ is panned on And Now before the drums enter and scamper along, before the track heads in the direction of fusion. By then, the arrangement is being powered along by the three drummers, who play with urgency as a searing guitar soars above washes of swirling organ. Meanwhile, Ola Kvernberg’s haunting violin drifts in and out and sometimes, is accompanies by a shimmering guitar. Still there’s urgency as drums drive the arrangement along, while the guitar and organ frame the hauntingly beautiful violin solo as folk meets fusion. When it drops out, sci-fi sounds and the guitar are added as the track heads in the direction of hard rock and progressive rock. Soon, Ola Kvernberg returns as the track heads towards a crescendo after seven magical minutes of genre-melting music. 

Rocky guitar licks open Caterpillar as the rhythm section  complete with three drummers, join forces with the organ which adds a lo-fi sound. By then, the rhythm section have locked into the tightest of grooves, and when the organ drops out, a guitar and percussion join the frae. The effects laden guitar solo is inventive, and seems to inspire the band as they reach new heights. Cymbals crash and the bass enjoys a brief moment in the sun before keyboards and percussion are added. However, it’s Ola Kvernberg’s emotive, soul-baring violin solo that plays a starring role. Meanwhile, the band play as if their very life depended upon it, combining power, urgency and a degree of drama, whilst fusing folk, fusion and progressive rock on what’s one of the highlights of Steamdome.

The tempo drops on Black Lemon, which initially, features an arrangement that is dubby, mesmeric and lysergic.This is very different from the previous track, as effects are used effectively while a guitar weaves its way across the arrangement adding a hypnotic backdrop. Meanwhile,a Hammond organ synths, drums and later, Ola Kvernberg’s haunting violin are added and play its part as the arrangement eventually, builds and evolves. Soon, band is enjoying the opportunity to stretch their legs as washes of Hammond organ combine with the mesmeric guitar as the trio of drummers power the rocky arrangement to this carefully crafted and captivating metamorphic track along.

There’s a Baroque influence to Go Up which also features a cinematic sound as Ola Kvernberg and his band combine elements of folk, funk, fusion, jazz and progressive rock over six minutes. To do this, a guitar, Hammond organ and the triumvirate of drummers join forces, before Ola Kvernberg pays homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. Later, the arrangement is stripped bare, and the rhythm section take centre-stage before fragments of guitars, washes of Hammond organ and synths are added and charge along. After being stripped bare one more time, the arrangement rebuilds, and before long, the band is in full flight. Sci-fi sounds and percussion are added to the genre-melting arrangement as it gallops along, as Ola Kvernberg continues to paint pictures music that is rich in imagery.

Although there’s ten tracks on the Steamdome, Interlude and Above The Dance Part I feature on the sixth track. Bubbling futuristic synths and an organ combine while Ola Kvernberg’s saws and plucks his violin during what sounds like the soundtrack to a merry-go-round. The result is a dreamy, dramatic, lysergic and otherworldly soundscape.

 Above The Dance Part I gallops along, and its filmic sound sounds as if it’s been inspired by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. As the trio of drummers provide a galloping backdrop, a Hammond organ joins forces with a weeping pedal steel and Ola Kvernberg’s violin. The pedal steel and violin proves to be a potent and hauntingly beautiful combination, and tugs at the heartstrings. That is the case when the tempo drops, and the bass provides the heartbeat to this beautiful and  haunting cinematic soundscape where Ola Kvernberg and his band ride into the sunset.

Just an organ Ola Kvernberg’s wistful violin opens Through The Mantle which initially has an understated sound, but gradually, builds as an effects laden guitar threatens to cut through the arrangement as the drama builds. Eventually, having toyed with the listener, a swirling Hammond organ joined forces with percussion and a fleet fingered guitar solo during a track that seems to have been influenced by classic rock from the seventies. Having reached a crescendo, just the organ remains as the tempo drops and the music becomes ruminative and liturgical.

Closing Steamdome is Credits, where the triumvirate of drummers take centre-stage and soon, are joined by a  Hammond organ as the arrangement gallops along. Soon, a freewheeling guitar is added to the mix, and by then, the band is in full flight. Later, sci-fi synths join the blistering guitar as thunderous drums power the arrangement along as Ola Kvernberg and his band take their final bow.

After Ola Kvernberg released The Mechanical Fair three years ago, many critics hailed the album a masterpiece as his finest solo album. It wasn’t going to be easy to followup an album of the quality of The Mechanical Fair. However, Ola Kvernberg is no ordinary musician, and has been releasing albums for twenty-three years. He put all of his experience to good use when he recorded Steamdome which will be released by Grappa on June the ‘8th’ 2018. This is a new chapter in the Ola Kvernberg story.

Steamdome is a very different album to Ola Kvernberg’s previous album The Mechanical Fair where strings featured heavily. Not this time around though. However,  just like on The Mechanical Fair, Ola Kvernberg was backed by a talented band that features a triumvirate of drummers who helped him record a truly ambitious, imaginative and innovative genre-melting album.

To record Steamdome Ola Kvernberg and his band fused elements of ambient, avant-garde, dub, electronic, folk, funk, fusion, jazz, progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. Ola Kvernberg also draws inspiration from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns during an album that veers between cinematic to hard rocking. Other times, the music on Steamdome is beautiful, lysergic, melancholy, ruminative and rich in imagery as Norwegian bandleader, composer and multi-instrumentalist Ola Kvernberg paints pictures with music that is rich in imagery on his much-anticipated followup to The Mechanical Fair. 

Ola Kvernberg’s fans have been waiting a long time for Steamdome, and it’s an album that has been well worth the three-year wait. Steamdome is a career defining opus from Ola Kvernberg, who reaches new heights on what’s without doubt the finest album of a solo career that has already spanned two decades.

Ola Kvernberg-Steamdome.

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