Smells Funny is the sixth album by Hedvig Mollestad’s trio (also known as HM3) since the guitarist’s debut recording under her own name Shoot! (Rune, 2011). Mollestad (full name Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) graduated from the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2010 where she met her fellow bandmates Ellen Brekken and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad.
The high-intensity Hendrixian sound of this power trio belies the subtlety of Mollestad’s playing, which is technically brilliant. “Beastie Beastie” opens the set with an insistent thunderous bass line before Mollestad lets rip with coruscating guitar licks. From the spacey yet muscular opener, the delightfully titled “First Things to Pop Is the Eye” see this power trio in Crimson mode with a staccato riff dominating the track before Mollestad employs various devices including feedback and echoey chords.
“Jurášek” (incidentally the name of a 1957 Czechoslovakian film) slows proceedings right down. Altogether more subtle, bluesy even, this is the nearest the trio gets to a ballad and is imbued with emotionally charge glissando guitar runs. By contrast, the urgently paced “Sugar Rush Mountain” is replete with high-octane axe work containing a plethora of vibrato-rich guitar. “Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered” is unalloyed metal but with stunt guitar gradually going ballistic. The finale, “Lucidness”, encapsulates much of the above and as a postscript to the album is characterised by its eight-minute dramatically rolling crescendo.
Whilst the Hedvig Mollestad Trio is hardly likely to appeal to fans of Wes Montgomery or Jim Hall, there is, to an extent, a genealogical link referring back to Charlie Christian, Eddie Lang and later exponents John McLaughlin and Sonny Sharrock. On first hearing the listener might regard this trio’s oeuvre as heavy-metal rock rather than jazz, but really it’s all about wringing out the ultimate impact from the electric guitar. In this Mollestad succeeds on every level.
Beastie, Beastie; First Thing to Pop Is the Eye; Jurasek; Sugar Rush Mountain; Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered; Lucidness (35.47)
Mollestad (elg); Ellen Brekken (elb); Ivar Loe Bjørnstad (d). Oslo, June & August 2018.