Hedvig Mollestad Trio

Enfant Terrible

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On their third offering, Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad's trio move further into the dense forest of hard rock, though they maintain their root ties to electric jazz improvisation. Enfant Terrible is as heavy as Shoot! was dynamic, as sludge-like and forceful as All Them Witches was intricate and angular. While the band's earlier efforts contained these qualities, they weren't saturated in them. The focus here is a visceral exploration of hard rock as an instrumental language. Recorded live to eight-track, it captures the vibe of Black Sabbath and Budgie but also of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys. Clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, these six jams offer a densely populated soundworld where overdriven, thick, thudding sludge meets exceptionally buoyant (though somewhat disguised) harmony. The repetitive vamp on "Laughing John" quickly gives way to a charging onslaught of rhythmic invention by Ivar Joe Bjornstad's drum kit playing double-time, and the in-the-pocket bass playing of Ellen Brekken. They give Mollestad a jumping-off point. With fractured invention she explores the discoveries of John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, and Tony Bourge. "Arigato, Bitch" is even slower, as a Sabbath-esque bass plod underscores the stone-cold tonnage in the guitar vamp based on a blues figure. Mollestad excavates its inside single notes on each turnaround pass, twisting them into one another as Brekken's pulsing, minimal upright bass solo becomes the bridge to sonic travel. "Liquid Bridges" is a detailed glimpse at the airiness under the muddy morass. Mollestad delivers her expressionistic melody with the elegance and attack of a young Terje Rypdal. "Rastapopoulos" is essentially a careening crescendo in free fall -- too bad it's only two minutes long. The Sabbath-ian intro to "La Boule Noire" is anvil-weight heavy, but far from menacing -- or boring. It eventually unfolds into a group improvisation that recalls the aggressive jazz inquiry of Lotus-era Santana. The jazz chords on closer "Pity the Children" highlight a more structurally open, minor-key melody with bowed bass. It ratchets up in intensity until it cracks and gradually returns -- à la a Moebius strip -- to where it began. Despite its more conventional root language, Enfant Terrible showcases the growth of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. They can take any piece of music and shift its focus in a split second; they can move it as far afield or draw it out slowly and deliberately, in each case letting hidden undertones unmask themselves gradually. They command, at this stage of their development, the will and ability to do as they wish with confidence, savvy, and arresting presence.

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