Hedvig Mollestad / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Maternity Beat Music Album Reviews

Hedvig Mollestad / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Maternity Beat Music Album Reviews
Accompanied by the 12-person Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, the Norwegian metal-jazz guitarist explores motherhood and mayhem on nine action-packed songs full of overdriven riffs and warring counterpoints.

Hedvig Mollestad’s music is like a particularly extravagant geyser that spews periodically when not bubbling away underneath the surface. Her sound sits at the heavier end of the metal-jazz continuum, a space the Norwegian guitarist has explored extensively with her eponymous trio on seven albums over the past 11 years. Maternity Beat, Mollestad’s latest collaboration with Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, continues the narrative experimentation of her recent solo releases Tempest Revisited and Ekhidna, this time making motherhood the object of focus.

Writing and arranging a double album of compositions for the 12 players of Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, plus Mollestad herself, is a significant undertaking, but it’s also ambitious in the range of themes it incorporates: parenthood, the global migration crisis, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. What groups the various ideas in Maternity Beat together is, unsurprisingly, motherhood—particularly its connection to emotional states. From there, Mollestad digs deep in her toolkit for interesting ways to convey her concerns—take the slightly disconnected voices on “Her Own Shape,” a parable of parenthood, or the urgency of an onlooker’s cries going head to head with passive drones on the striking opener “On the Horizon Part 1.” Rather than distilling her ideas too neatly, Mollestad leaves them murky, making her socially engaged themes inextricable from their musical surroundings.

The sound of Maternity Beat is similarly knotty, exploring dissonance, harsh noise, and crunching grooves on nine action-packed compositions. Mollestad described creating the project as being “as thrilling as jumping off a cliff,” and the feeling of inching your toes over the edge is clear from the first listen. In “On the Horizon Part 2,” a multitude of instabilities—uneven meters, warring counterpoint, thumping grooves, and overdriven guitar riffs—loosely connect to create a landscape constantly moving in different directions. Frenzied figures balance on top of that unstable ground, with scorched-earth improvising from saxophonist Martin Myhre Olsen, and, on “Donna Ovis Peppa,” violinist Adrian Løseth Waade.

Balancing the full-blooded moments are more tranquil corners like “Little Lucid Demons,” a quaint étude for small ensemble and Laurie Anderson-like automaton voices; it expands out into a luxurious groove with a stretched melody that nods to John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. “Look for swing, look for flow, look for beat, then take it away,” the voices half-sing in stereo. But rhythm never totally disappears in Mollestad’s music, which maintains a constant heartbeat even in minimal moments.

Mollestad’s pieces fare best when they marry dark and light in one picture, like the bizarre gothic dirge “Do Re Mi Ma Ma,” with its surreal touches of cartoonish humor, weary whole-ensemble exhalations, and dense trio improvisations shared between Mollestad, organist Ståle Storløkken, and drummer Torstein Lofthus. It’s the most vivid of Mollestad’s musical portraits, throwing strong colors onto her massive canvas; less convincing are the pieces rendered in pastel (“Her Own Shape”) or monochrome (“All Flights Cancelled,” borrowed from Mollestad’s 2021 trio album Ding Dong You’re Dead). The latter song’s immediacy—as Mollestad faced the prospect of an international touring season scuppered by COVID-19—fades as it’s translated across projects and timeframes.

The album’s two framing tracks, “Maternity Beat” and “Maternity Suite,” come right at the end, and travel to the project’s extremities. “Maternity Beat” sits in a calm yet eerie space, where Mollestad delivers prolonged harmonic trickles, waiting for ensemble respite that only appears in snippets. “Maternity Beat” follows abruptly with big rock textures, Mollestad’s raucous soloing, and general noisy joy, as the band gets its chops around busy, boppish lines. Heard as one continuous 19-minute piece, the two songs encapsulate an artist whose most interesting work resides at the edges.
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Hedvig Mollestad / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Maternity Beat Music Album Reviews Hedvig Mollestad / Trondheim Jazz Orchestra - Maternity Beat Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 25, 2022 Rating: 5


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