Norwegian guitarist sets on a journey to a neighboring planet to locate the perfect vibe in this part of the Solar system.
It’s not difficult to explain Scandinavian musicians’ obsession with surf rock – the sea is near yet it is cold – and the same goes for the sci-fi slant of their oeuvre, with rational minds embracing the style’s retrofuturistic aspect. That’s the thinking behind Steinar Karlsen’s fifth album: an instrumental trip closer to the sun, which can be both fantastic and down-to-earth. Five years in the making, “Destination Venus” should receive acclaim equal to the praise given to this record’s predecessor, “Tur” from 2015, but the artist has made a significant progress since then, aiming for tight-but-loose performances now.
The album may begin in a bluesy vein, with “The Goodbye” where a six-string twang is probing stereo panorama, while anchoring its expanse to a Farfisa-esque clouds of buzz before raga-like solos take the tune higher and higher, only the riff of “Night Flight” – hooked to heaviness – feels more carnal than romantic. Martin Langlie’s percussion and Eirik Øien’s bass immensely spice up this nocturnal jive, but the harmonic licks color “The Karman Line” in an unbearably sweet, Renaissance solemnity – a contrast to “Picnic On The Moon” whose deliberately cheesy flow will ultimately prove to be rather complex.
When arrangements become overtly cosmic, as “Monsters” seems to suggest, tension would sag a tad, yet the stormtroopers’ belligerence is right on the money here, especially with fusion rumble at the fore, or with funk that’s driving “The Trip” towards tribal ecstasy. Still, “A Billion Stars” has blues written all over its spacey sparseness to convey nostalgia, so it’s not an entirely blissful travel. This is why “Destination Venus” isn’t boring; this is why it’s riveting. Join the journey and enjoy.