Album of the Week: Carmen Villain | Only Love From Now On

If you don’t know the music of US-born, Norwegian-Mexican artist and producer Carmen Villain, then Only Love From Now On won’t sound like the radical departure it is.

Villain’s debut album, Sleeper from 2013, is fairly straight forward lo-fi post punk and the connections to Nico are nearly too obvious to make. Villain, aka Carmen Hillestad, also began her professional life as a model [footnote 1], and her vocals on Sleeper share a disregard for the kind of overblown nearly comic musical theater generic bombasity that win Idol and Voice awards.

Then, after Sleeper, things changed. Gone were guitar and vocals replaced by synthesizers, electronics, drum machines, and flute. Here, on Only Love From Now On, Villian is joined by Arve Henriksen (trumpet, electronics) and Johanna Scheie Orellana (flutes) for a deep, deep journey into sound and movement that create a delicate beautiful structure, like looking at the world through a mother of pearl mirror.

Hypnotic, organic, and wonderfully strange, Only Love From Now On delights and surprises at every turn, feeling at once foreboding yet “carefully optimistic” in Hillestad’s own words. Listening late into darkness, eyes closed, I was lifted from the red chair, floating miles of years beyond the Barn, driven by subterranean beats, ambient waves, and space is the place jazz fuel. Only Love‘s song titles do more than hint at deeper meanings — “Gestures”, “Future Memory”, “Liminal Space”, “Only Love From Now On”, “Subtle Bodies”, “Silueta”, “Portals” — acting as gentle guiding lights.

Breathe in Only Love From Now On in its 38-minute entirety and you’ll be led to surprise.

1. that’s Nico on the cover of Bill Evan’s album Moon Beams