Hedvig Mollestad Trio - Smells Funny [Rune Grammofon Records - 2018]Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen is a songwriter/musician hailing from Ålesund, Norway, and the spearhead of the Hedvig Mollestad Trio. The band is made up of Hedvig on guitar and vocals, with Ellen Brekken handling bass duties and Ivar Loe Bjørnstad on drums. The trio have developed a reputation over the years both as top notch live performers and as studio performers. They play 1970s style progressive hard rock that is shot through with a jazzy, psychedelic vibe. Smells Funny is the band’s fifth full length studio album, a run that was begun back in 2011 with their debut album Shoot!
Smells Funny features six tracks of technical, progressive hard rock recorded live at Amper Tone studio, between June and August 2018 by Johnny Skalleberg and Kim Lillestøl. Album opener Beastie Beastie is a fairly groovy, laid back number that recalls some of the great instrumental hard rock of the early 1970s, and features some pretty wild guitar posturing. First Thing to Pop is the Eye, follows hot on its heels. Another uptempo slab of progressive music, darker and ever so slightly heavier than the previous track, it ramps up the hypnotic grooves of their earlier albums. Jurasek takes things down a level or two, coming on more like Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac than any other 1970s hard rock band. The next song, Sugar Rush Mountain explodes into life during its second half with some blistering lead guitar work from Hedvig, and solid backing from the other members of the band. Bewitched, Dwarfed and Defeathered is the album’s penultimate track, a near perfect mix of hard rock and Pat Metheny style jazz guitar. The album closes with Lucidness, probably the least easy track to define here, whilst it definitely has an Avant Garde vibe to it, it never quite enters the world of free jazz or improv.
Overall the album perfectly melds all of the elements previously discussed, imagine if the Allman Brothers were an instrumental rock band with Pat Metheny on guitar, and you’d get somewhere close to what we have here. The band are top notch and it’s evident how much they enjoy playing together, every little guitar or bass run seems to be anticipated by the other members of the band, who have an almost telepathic understanding of one another. Mollestad tears things up with some incendiary guitar playing, ripping her way through riffs and lead breaks like there’s no tomorrow. A tour de force of guitar playing as good as anything you’ve heard in the last 20 years. Smells Funny is simply an excellent progressive jazz rock album that deserves to be heard.Darren Charles