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Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Shoot!

img  Tobias Fischer
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Led by Norwegian guitarist Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen, Hedvig Mollestad Trio makes music that isn’t exactly easy to categorize. Full of unexpected twists while maintaining a sense of primal simplicity, their debut album Shoot! brings together elements of garage punk, progressive rock, metal, and avant garde jazz for a messy, hard-hitting conglomeration of influences that’s anything but understated.

The album’s opener, “Gun and the E-Kid” is a grungy, high octane number built on an incessant 70’s metal riff. Drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad drives the song with frenzied, tribal drumming that acts as an anchor for Thomassen’s anguished guitar screeches and moans. “Ashes” begins with a similar distorted riff approach before coagulating into abstract jazz fusion. Taking Marc Ribot’s angular guitar approach and fusing it with Steve Vai’s over-the top pyrotechnics, Thomassen lines fracture frenetically across the fretboard.

Throughout, Shoot! is marked with a balls-to-the-wall approach that often favors manically excessive playing over quiet subtlety.  Hedvig Mollestad Trio draws from fusion jazz and blues, but the group’s heart is clearly in the classic sounds of early heavy metal. That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of nuance here. Bjørnstad’s drumming is equally effective delivering post-bop polyrhythms (note the spacious, inventive intro to “No Encore”) and primal, no-frills rock beats (“Blood Witch”). Similarly, Ellen Brekken’s upright bass work hops comfortably between tasteful classic jazz stylings, hard groove anchors and hard-rock pounding. But even during the album’s quieter “jazz” moments, there’s an underlying punk volitability and an exhilarating lack of restraint.

In the wrong hands, this sort of playing could come off as frustratingly self-indulgent, but the fact that the trio refuses to stay put in any one style for too long makes it work. “Doom’s Lair” is a cloudy, pensive ballad driven by slowly unfurling coils of notes and Brekken’s ultra-lyrical upright bass soloing. There’s a touch of surf music, some blues, some avant garde guitar inflections vaguely reminiscent of Derek Bailey.

Shoot! wears its influences unabashedly on its sleeve. The cartoonish groove jazz riffs and film noir character of “The Dead One” wouldn’t be out of place on John Zorn’s Naked City project. “Sidetracked” is charged with from-the-gut blues-jazz figures that that smell strongly of John Scofield. “Blood Witch” is a dirgy and distorted note-for-note Melvins’ cover. Shoot!’s closer, “The Valley,” is slow-motion  Americana jazz with Bill Frisell written all over it.

Despite these clear musical references, Shoot! is hardly derivative. If anything, the record’s cross-genre pastiche—anchored with a love of the down and dirty—makes for a listen that’s both highly accessible and uncompromisingly artistic. The musicianship alone makes Shoot! worth a listen. The brute force that drives it is what makes it a keeper.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Hedvig Mollestad Trio
Homepage: Rune Grammofon Records

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