Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad (also known by her full name as Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) took a short detour from her regular electro-jazz power trio outings with her last album, the critically acclaimed Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon, 2020). For that bold project Mollestad replaced her normal trio line-up with a sextet including keyboard, piano, trumpet, drums and percussion.
The enhanced assemblage rendered the augmented arrangements closer to something approaching a synthesis of, say, Larry Coryell’s ebullient Eleventh House recordings with the more labyrinthine but no less frenetic expositions of Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time. The net result of Ekhidna was the diversification of tonal colour but without compromising any of her trademark high-velocity dynamics.
Ding Dong. You’re Dead. (sic) is a reversion to the more limited form of her previous trio album Smells Funny (Rune Grammofon, 2018). However, “limited” here only refers to the triadic personnel deployment. The music is, once again, distinctly not limited in terms of its sheer energy and imagination. The opener, Leo Flash’ Return To The Underworld, begins with a distinctly King Crimson-like riff à la Red (Island, 1974) before transmuting into a pulsating ostinato groove. All Flights Cancelled continues in a similar vein, replete with Mollestad’s soaring, echoey, vibrato-rich guitar.
The soundscapey title track deviates sharply from the band’s usual metal mould courtesy of Ellen Brekken’s doleful arco double bass and a spacey effects-suffused, guitar-overlaid wash. Gimbal returns the trio to full-on nuclear-powered fusion with a heavy rock-blues vamp punctuated by shimmering, triumphal guitar lines.
Brekken reverts once more to double bass on Magic Moshroom which serves to emphasise the juxtaposition between the deft, resonant pizzicato notes of the acoustic instrument and the overdriven electric guitar, the net effect being engagingly dramatic. This tack continues on The Art Of Being Jon Balkovitch, the acoustic bass underpinned by Ivar Loe Bjørnstad’s powerhouse drumming and all the while Mollestad’s guitar climbs to the rooftop with sonic arrays of florid notes.
The ballad-like Four Candles concludes the set with ghostly reverberating glissandi, eerie percussion and sonorous bass. In common with so much of Mollestad’s work, this album grips the listener’s attention and never lets go.
Leo Flash’ Return To The Underworld; All Flights Cancelled; Ding Dong. You’re Dead; Gimbal; Magic Moshroom; The Art Of Being Jon Balkovitch; Four Candles (41.26)
Mollestad Thomassen (elg); Ellen Brekken (elb, b); Ivar Loe Bjørnstad (d). Oslo, September and November 2020.
Rune Grammofon RCD2219