“Most of my songs are about escaping something – escaping this weird vacuum, an unsatisfying world.” – Carmen Villain
Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Carmen Villain is somewhat of an enigma in these times. Once a highly successful model appearing on the covers of many of the worlds leading fashion magazines, she has shifted her talents towards a more pure and raw approach to the arts. Presenting her first musical creation to the public, Carmen Villain has released Sleeper this month on the eclectic imprint Smalltown Supersound. Sleeper is a psych, pop and folk rock masterpiece with beautiful song writing that conveys someone in transition, removing themselves from something that is not purely connected to their soul and the entanglements of life that occur in the process and the stages of regrowth that occur after leaving that world. The album slips between dissonant and consonant melodies with an astonishing vocal approach on every song.
Once submerged in a world of modeling, this deviation to a sound which such sonic intimacy and emotional revelation shows the type of leap in lifestyle she transformed towards in her work. The raw and experimental nature of the guitars, keyboards and the vocal layering really gives the album a hypnotic feeling, creating dynamics that are unpredictable but so tasteful. The bass and drums have a smooth, spacious and powerful presence, allowing the guitars to move in and out of extremes of gentle acoustic folk pieces to blasted out psych burners. With a heavy degree of influenced drawn from Sun City Girls, Carmen has really stunned us at SCV with her debut. Sleeper really pulls me into a mood that takes me to many places within my own lineage and is one of the most incredible debut albums I have heard this year.
Carmen Villain takes on a lot of responsibility to the construction of her debut album, contributing guitars, keyboards, percussion and drum machine. Emil Nikolaisen takes on the other half of the production for Sleeper, playing drums and adding additional keyboards. One of the best qualities is the type of atmosphere and setting that comes alive when listening on headphones. I feel like it is best processed from beginning to end with no breaks between tracks and with all of your focus and attention present. Small additives jump out of nowhere that you can only catch if you are devoting yourself to the listen entirely. An additional vocal layer, backwards processed layers, phantom ghost like trails of layers, rising changes in the depth of the guitar sheets and so much more. Every song has a specific set of tones it is dialed into and the transformation doesn’t stop until the song is done.
There are a handful of songs on the album that really push the bar and make it a must hear record of the year for us. The first moments I heard the transfixing aura of “Obedience”, I went into a very heavy state of mental contemplation. Steeped in more electronics than most of the album with a deep pulsing dark rhythm on the bottom end, the ricochet effects and ghost like vocals are planted superbly inside of this futuristic sounding piece. The percussion is immaculate and the intensity swells measure after measure sounding like 70′s krautrock masters Can in their prime. Carmen laces ”Obedience” with haunting and hardly traceable wavering vocal lines that give the song an ancient mystic feeling when interacting with the mirror like guitar sheets that waver over the mix. Feedback pours into the song once the second climax occurs and the controlled chaos of the sound appears as if it is about to lose its hold. The ending section shows an even more haunting display of vocal layering with washes of guitar sheets to transform the energy yet again.
“Easy”, “Made A Shell” and “It May Well Die” are steeped in darker shades of resonance, separating themselves from the remainder of the album with experimentalism still at the heart. “Lifeissin”, “Dreamo” and “Kingwoman” are the opposite of the last three tracks mentioned, creating a beautifully bright aura in each that transcends the record out of the haze. “How Much” is a song like “Obedience” that has really struck a chord with us. The groove is planted firmly into the ground with rubbery bass, lively drums/percussion and a menacing guitar line. It feels primitive and raw while Carmen adds sultry and mysterious vocal layering that inches itself over the top of the instrumentalism. The guitar experimentation after the first chorus section is phenomenal and is the section that has really burned itself into my memory. There is duality of darkness and the light, especially with the phrasing of Carmen’s vocals. It’s a stunning track that feels like a transformation in character for the album. The end of the album is capped off by the stunning acoustic heavy psych folk track “Demon Lover”. Carmen took a song from Dutch 70′s rock unit Socking Blue for this ending and is a fitting departure to an album with this much color and strong song writing.
Sleeper is a mind blowing album that shows Carmen Villain putting herself directly in line with some of the best in 2013. Revealing very personal emotional experiences and laying it all to examine gives this debut album something all its own. Her voice is pure and so honest that it really matches the adventurous nature of the music. Sleeper is 21st century psych rock at its best.
Once a very famous model, Carmen Hillestad has taken her creative energies into a new direction with the introduction of her musical form on the label Smalltown Supersound. Based out of London, Carmen Hillestad – musically known as Carmen Villain – has really made a name her herself on the music circuit in a very short amount of time. After hearing the first single “Lifeissin” from her debut long player on Smalltown Supersound scheduled for release March 12th, we knew this was a soul who really took her craft serious and has taken a voyage to give music to the world that is new, fresh and mind blowing. Emotionally empowering in approach in the most fragile of configurations, the first single was reflective of half of the story that represents her debut full length Sleeper.
The premiere of the new track “Made A Shell” this week taps into the more gloomy and psych world that Carmen brings with her band and speaks of the other forms of expression that we can expect on the new LP Sleeper. The guitars are very angular and intertwine into everything present while the bass and drums keep the piece locked into a transfixing cycle. The sense of atmosphere and exploration is stunning and is a track that I feel very strong about this year. Carmen has that ability to interact with every part of the music, something that is taken even further through the usage of effects, multiple vocal layers and post mixing manipulation. We were very intrigued and taken back by “Lifeissin” but with “Made A Shell”, she has our full attention. Also included is a photo set of her recent press photography for this new project.
If you enjoy this track, pre-orders for her debut full length Sleeper can be filled out HERE
All photography by Simon Skreddernes, Kristine Jakobsen, Adina Fohlin, Ingrid Pop and Marie Kristiansen
In November of last year, Europe’s Lindstrøm released his fourth full length album Smallhans on the label who took him in from the start, Smalltow Supersound. Conjuring up an odd arrangement of experimental electronica music that shifts styles and forms by the track, this is an artists whose works became more intriguing and down right incredible the more I examined the layers and ideas around the dance beats. It has been in my most recent years of enjoying music that I have come to respect and love this style of making music where you can have very clever states of experimentation around music of a very different reality. The music is a culmination of electronica from the 80′s until now and is created entirely from the hand of Lindstrøm. Keyboards, drum tracking, guitars, bass, it’s all coming from the mind of this music prodigy, an addition to his musings that gives it yet another special aura before diving in. Strip away origin of the tracking and you are left with a very funky electro voyage into the vast color schemes of this Oslo based musician. I can’t help but feel the vibe of 80′s Talking Heads, Funkadelic and Michael Jackson production, making Smallhans an album that I could see Brian Eno and Quincy Jones being proud of. I’d love to know if either knows about this rising musician.
With works in his past, a more experimental approach was attributed to the final make up of the song while Smallhans takes the meat of the album straight to the dance floor. The complexity and stylish sense of note and chord choices remains intact and shows how talented this musician is at presenting his voice inside of different mediums. Talents can in many times become the focal point to a composers creation and Lindstrøm finds a way to perfectly encompass complex techniques with music that is free, simple and created in the revolutionary name of dance culture. Lindstrøm somehow finds a balance between these worlds in such an all inclusive way that it’s hard to call this new record solely pop or progressive.
The synth is heavy when it comes to Smallhans, building off a very approachable composition approach that really pronounces everything the melodic lines are made of. This young producer has created six songs of mind blowing dance music for a generation where rules are thrown out the window and the only standard is how good the ending result feels.
Order a copy from iTunes by Clicking Here
San Francisco based Tussle release “Tempest” with help from influential band Liquid Liquid’s Twitch. The album, much like Tussle’s other releases, plays heavily on the idea of “drum and bass” but taking a much different approach, which is what has categorized their sound since their first full length release in 2003. The bass and drums still drive home with this incredible, minimalistic, dubbed out dance that gets you in a sort of translucent dance pattern mimicking rave like scenarios gone a bit more cerebral.
The whole album is smooth (highlight “Moondog”), cohesive, and digestible but still thought provoking. It doesn’t dive into new areas as much as expanding on ideas already used in Tussle’s work. The overdubbing adds this atmospheric, build up while the percussion work plays in the shadows of reverb ping ponging back from the bass. The Bay Area is prominent in their sound as well as the general mood created by the group. “Cat Pirate” plays on the more atmospheric, DJ like attention the album builds on.
The bass straight from a Berlin basement warped with a moog-like sound that creates stellar polyrhythmic patterns for the listener to play with. At the forefront is the signature sound, the bass, the drums, the drive. But the expansion of keys and dubs adds a seemingly second band to Tussle. Acid electronics and well as their modern funk bass lines drive the album through futuristic, floating car cities. This is a definite highlight in Tussle’s career and something not to be missed out on. If you are already familiar with Tussle, then “Tempest” will only be a step up from what they have already established. If you aren’t familiar with “Tussle”, the experience will be refreshing and vibrant with color. A very solid release.
Daughter of prolific musician Don Cherry, Neneh Cherry, has calibrated her own imprint into modern music with a lot of the same power, relevance and distinction her father gave music. The Slits, Rip, Rig and Panic, Float Up, P.C. and Buffalo are just a few of the projects she has been involved with over the last few decades and she has become one of the most diverse and dynamic vocalist in many different scenes. With a background that Don Cherry gave her growing up, it’s no shock that she has found her gifts and purpose through music.
Her latest project, Neneh Cherry & The Thing on Smalltown Supersound, finds a bridging with herself and some of the best free jazz players out right now. Swedish/Norweigan free jazz outfit The Thing (Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and Paal Nilssen-Love) all met out of a mutual respect for the songbook of Don Cherry. Highly sophisticated, they bring a muscular weight to their craft that brings free jazz all the way into the 21st century. With most of their live performances dedicated to Don Cherry, it was only right that they were afforded an opportunity to get in a room with Cherry’s daughter and see where the night would take them. It was easy to believe that things clicked right away considering the vast, diverse and strong form of compositional ability every single person involved has a background in. With a musical partnership that began with Neneh Cherry and The Thing well before their new studio album The Cherry Thing, it’s a beautiful amalgamation of culture and style that has come together in this new studio project.
To pin down Neneh Cherry would be impossible, especially on The Cherry Thing. The very moment one of the tracks takes off into a journey of the past, Neneh breathes an ostentatious presence and spirit that could only come from the 21st century. Her vocal recitation of MF Doom’s “Accordion” from his Madvillian project comes off strikingly powerful as she adds her nuances and small vocal inflections that make it all her own. Rarely do you hear a remake of a song that does the original justice and Neneh couldn’t have paid better homage to one of the best mc’s, MF Doom. Mats Gustafsson has been making a name for himself over the years and is a premier saxophone player in so regions around the world where free music exists. Sonic Youth to Zu, his presence is ubiquitos and fierce yet highly textured, never landing into a position of stagnation. It feels like a tornado when he opens up on The Cherry Thing and his playing on this new record is just as mammoth and immense as anything he has ever released. His bandmates in The Thing push through the weight and energy coming from the sax work with a poise finesse that only the most advanced and skilled can reach. The Cherry Thing isn’t only aggressive and fired filled and presents passages of a very different world. At times, it becomes peaceful and mellow in lyrical and musical form with grace and contemplation as the main vehicle of response.
The Cherry Thing is tremendously contemplative and surreal. Vocal patterns and sax lines weave a trail of consciousness and a spiritual vestige every moment. Intensity breathes in cycles, not just solo space and the diversity in influence takes shape with covers of artists like MF Doom, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and The Stooges. Eight tracks of experimental jazz with the sharp pen of Neneh, The Cherry Thing will serve as one of the newest sounding voyages into the free jazz and post beat poet world.
Order this album from Smalltown Supersound HERE