Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon)

Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen

Released July 3, 2020

AllMusic Favorite Jazz Albums 2020






Widely praised from Rolling Stone to Downbeat, Mojo to Wire and Jazzwise; electrifying guitarist Hedvig Mollestad hits us with a multifaceted and dynamic progressive jazzrock monster high on fierce riffs, rich textures, vibrant solos and strong melody lines.

In May 2018 Hedvig received an invitation from Vossajazz – the much loved annual festival established in 1973 – to write the commission work for 2019. This came at the right time, she had been thinking about writing for a bigger group than the trio, and this would be a good opportunity. To make it suitable for album release the full festival version was edited, sharpened and recorded from scratch in Amper Tone studio in Oslo. In addition to Hedvig on guitar, the line-up includes powerhouse drummer Torstein Lofthus (Elephant9) and percussionist Ole Mofjell, the youngest member, but with solid experience from the European improvisation scene. Keyboard duties are handled by Marte Eberson, probably most known from her five years with Highasakite, and Erlend Slettevoll (The Core and supergroup Grand General, Rune Grammofon 2013). Hedvig first met trumpeter Susana Santos Silva in Mats Gustafsson´s NU-ensemble. Ekhidna is a figure from Greek mythology; half woman, half snake. Hevig is keen to stress that it´s not a concept album as such, but loosely tied to themes of human struggle and being a mother in times when our increasing inability to live in harmony with nature paints a bleak picture.

Track Listing:

1. No Friends But the Mountains (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 01:56

2. A Stone’s Throw (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 07:07

3. Antilone (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 10:12

4. Slightly Lighter (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 03:02

5. Ekhidna (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 09:06

6. One Leaf Left (Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen) 07:54


Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen: guitar

Ole Mofjell: percussion

Susana Santos Silva: trumpet

Torstein Lofthus: drums

Erlend Slettevoll: Fender Rhodes, Moog Voyager, Prophet-5

Marte Eberson: Vintage Vibe Electronic Piano, Moog Voyager, Nord Electro

Recorded January & February, 2020, at Amper Tone Studio

Produced by Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen

Recorded and Mixed by Bård Ingebrigtsen

Mastered by Helge Sten

Executive-Producer: Rune Kristoffersen

Sleeve Design: Kim Hiorthøy


At just over 40 minutes, this is a streamlined collection of six compositions. The brief opener “No Friends But the Mountains” is under two minutes and consists of Santos offering a moody, Spanish-tinged theme; Mollestad fingerpicks the changes and keys color the backdrop. The guitarist’s chugging, Motorhead-esque riffing introduces “A Stone’s Throw.” Santos Silva joins Mollestad on the frontline, twinning her angular guitar arpeggios then vamping solo in a minor-key mode. Lofthus and Slettevoll surround them with a furious yet carefully arranged polyrhythmic syncopation. The keyboard players assert themselves in the bridge as the band drops into a pastoral terrain that recalls Pink Floyd’s “Breathe,” just before Lofthus’ snare reroutes the crew. At over ten minutes, “Antilone” begins at full bore; seemingly an unruly prog-cum-jazz riff shared by the guitarist, trumpeter, and keyboardists, as Lofthus improvises and Slettevoll keeps a clattering, unruly beat. The importance of Santos Silva cannot be overstated. Her playing is canny and focused without any extra notes. She adds texture and uncommon modal lyricism (she has studied Miles Davis’ late second quintet and early electric recordings extensively). She also offers a forceful dynamic that balances space and color; the dialogic interplay between her and Mollestad is seamless. On this jam the interaction between drummers (kit and congas) is locked down amid the accompanying distorted Fender Rhodes vamps, which crackle in the margins to expand the frontline’s tonal reach. While the title track commences as a slow, psych guitar blues, the band gradually turn it inside-out in pursuit of an elegiac melody. Mollestad and Lofthus re-center those electric blues as Santos Silva melds prog and serpentine jazz-funk. Closer “One Leaf Left” spends most of its seven minutes as an atmospheric ballad with trumpet and guitar playing different polytonal lyrics and harmonic facets amid painterly Rhodes pianos and hypnotic, interlocking percussion. With a single stinging note, Mollestad jars the tune out of its reverie and into a noisy metallic blues, while Santos Silva drops out and the rest of the band answer with sharp angles, grinding changes, and thudding tom-toms. Hedvig Mollestad has already changed the jazz-rock aesthetic. Ekhidna reveals an expansive use of harmonic and dissonant improv, electronically altered tonalities, and riveting polyrhythms as guideposts toward a new musical moment.

Thom Jurek (AllMusic)