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Carmen Villain

An artist and producer with an exquisite ear for layered atmospheres, Oslo's Carmen Villain makes delicately challenging music that has only grown more transporting with time. Her early albums as a singer/songwriter, such as 2013 debut album Sleeper and 2017's Infinite Avenue, combined experimental rock, dream pop, electro-acoustic meditations, and shadowy character sketches in shifting layers that were psychedelic in the truest sense of the term. The elongated arcs and detailed sonics of these releases hinted at the dreamlike sound-worlds of 2019's Both Lines Will Be Blue, which heralded the blend of dub, ambient, fourth world and kosmiche on 2022's Only Love from Now On. Born in the U.S. to Mexican and Norwegian parents, Carmen Hillestad began writing songs inspired by the writing of Charles Bukowski and Mikhail Bulgakov and experimented with loops, vocals, and drum programming while working as a model. After deciding to share her music as Carmen Villain, she recorded her debut album at studios including Oslo's CSX Dungeon. During the sessions, she enlisted the help of Serena Maneesh's Emil Nikolaisen and Prins Thomas as co-producers, while she played guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, and drum machines. Arriving in March 2013 on Smalltown Supersound, Sleeper touched on influences ranging from Sun City Girls and Sonic Youth to Broadcast and This Heat. Villain returned with 2017's introspective Planetarium, an EP of songs blending field recordings with acoustic and electronic instruments that included remixes by Gigi Masin. That September, Villain released her second full-length, the hushed Infinite Avenue, which featured contributions from Jenny Hval, experimental house producer Matt Karmil, and Deathprod's Helge Sten. After working with U.K. producer Parris on a commissioned project for the Ultima Contemporary Music Festival, Villain collaborated with Thomas and Chilean-Norwegian flutist Johanna Scheie Orellana on her third album, Both Lines Will Be Blue. A collection of structured and improvised instrumentals that incorporated field recordings, zither, and electronics in its soothing ambience, the album arrived in July 2019. The following February, a remix collection featuring reworkings of the album's tracks by Parris, DJ Python, Karima F, and others appeared. Villain reunited with Orellana for Affection in a Time of Crisis, a piece combining granular synthesis, field recordings, and flute that Longform Editions released in June 2020. That October, she appeared on the Geographic North compilation A Little Night Music: Aural Apparitions from the Geographic North, which also included Oliver Coates, Fennesz, and Lotus Plaza among the contributors. January 2021 saw the release of Sketch for Winter IX: Perlita, Villain's edition in a series of Smalltown Supersound EPs inspired by the emotional impact of winter. For her fourth album, February 2022's Only Love from Now On, she worked with Orellana and Arve Henriksen on expansive pieces that built on the approach of Both Lines Will Be Blue and the releases that followed
© Heather Phares /TiVo


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