Hedvig Mollestad Trio – Ding Dong. You’re Dead. (2021) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Hedvig Mollestad Trio – Ding Dong. You’re Dead. (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 41:20 minutes | 454 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Rune Grammofon

Only nine months after her momentous debut solo album Ekhidna, the guitarist is back fronting her trio. With their previous album, Smells Funny, this explosive and expansive trio experienced a breakthrough of sorts, having gone from strength to strength through five albums since their 2011 debut Shoot!, gathering respect from both rock and jazz camps. With the hypnotic title track, the spacious ballad “Four Candles”, and a generally more varied mood, Ding Dong. You´re Dead. is the trio´s most dynamic album to date. That said, there´s still enough solid and creative riffing here to satisfy the headbangers, as well as the jazzheads, as they further explore the free and open landscapes most notably started with their Black Stabat Mater album and continued with Smells Funny. As recent performances have shown, online and in the flesh, this trio radiates confidence and have become a surefire hit on the Norwegian live scene. And while we rightly praise Hedvig´s exceptional abilities, let´s not forget how important the rhythm section is to make it all work so well. Ellen Brekken is an accomplished bassist, driving the band just as hard on the electric bass as on the acoustic. Then there´s Ivar Loe Bjørnstad, not your regular rock drummer, not your regular jazz drummer, but in possession of just the right amount of loose swagger.

Ding Dong. You’re Dead. marks the return of Norwegian guitarist and composer Hedwig Mollestad’s return to her long-standing trio with bassist Ellen Brekken and drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad, just eight months after she led a sextet on Ekhidna, her first solo album. This outing marks her trio’s tenth anniversary. While it’s impossible to say for sure, it seems that the more jazz-forward musical signature of Ekhidna informed these proceedings. There’s a different feel at work — there’s more jazz-rock than Black Sabbath reflected in Mollestad’s still-molten guitar approach. In another shift, this date marks the group’s first to feature compositions from Brekken, and she turns in two of the best on this set. Unlike most albums cut in the pandemic year of 2020, Ding Dong. You’re Dead. was recorded by the group working together in the studio, not sending in tracks or showing up to the room separately. As such, an organic musical kineticism just drips from these grooves. The Brekken-penned opener “Leo Flash Return to the Underworld” commences with a series of spiky, syncopated guitar riffs that simultaneously recall the King Crimson of Red and the Mahavishnu Orchestra of Visions of the Emerald Beyond. Her knotty, overdriven vamp is buoyed by a circular bass riff that moves in ever-widening, harmonically rich circles, and Bjørnstad’s interlocking kick drum and tom-toms are underscored by fluid, authoritative cymbal work. Mollestad constructs a high-flying solo that registers the influences of both Bill Connors and Sonny Sharrock. “All Flights Canceled” directly references the handiwork of the pandemic in urgent rushes of punchy rock & roll riffs that bridge Dick Dale and Ray Russell. The title track moans into existence thanks to Brekken’s resonant, canny arco playing. Her sonorous bow improvises across the lower register as Mollestad adds a spiny, moody, and minimal blues vamp atop sparse, syncopated percussion from Bjørnstad. “Gimbal” is a true intersection of hard stoner rock and refracted jazz harmonics. Slow and plodding, Bjørnstad ups the ante with his swinging, dancing kit-work. Brekken’s “Magic Moshroom” (sic) seamlessly weds fusion and prog as Mollestad follows her upright bassline with tight, startlingly sharp arpeggios, sinewy blues lines, and metal vamps. “The Art of Being Jon Balkovitch” channels the inspiration of “Freeway Jam” from Jeff Beck’s Wired as the trio wed funky bass vamps, popping snare breaks, and expansive guitar harmonics. Closer “Four Candles” is a spectral, psychedelic guitar ballad whose roots emerge from the folk music of Mollestad’s native Norway and the British Isles. Bjørnstad employs a platoon of percussion instruments in framing her tender, spooky guitar lines while Brekken offers an abstracted bassline that colors the lyric margins. Ding Dong. You’re Dead. showcases this trio at a peak, turning their music inside-out to discover what lies hidden inside it, then exposes all that to the open air. While the Mollestad group continue to develop and offer plenty of firepower, here they do it with nuance, sensitivity, and commanding authority. – Thom Jurek

1. Leo Flash’ Return To The Underworld (07:29)
2. All Flights Cancelled (05:26)
3. Ding Dong. You’re Dead. (07:08)
4. Gimbal (05:32)
5. Magic Moshroom (05:32)
6. The Art of Being Jon Balkovitch (04:42)
7. Four Candles (05:31)