Selections: Carmen Villain
In this series, Selections, we invite DJs, producers and label heads to dig into their digital crates and share the contents of their Bandcamp collections. This week, Carmen Villain spotlights lush dub experiments, expressive club beats, intimate ambient music and more
There’s a tiptoe dynamism to Mexican-Norwegian artist Carmen Villain’s fourth album, ‘Only Love From Now On’ on Smalltown Supersound. An alchemical fusion of dub sonics, ambient music and spiritual jazz, these seven tracks present some of the most enchanting music of her career, which has consistently seen her push herself in new directions, from haunting alternative folk into fourth world experimentalism.
‘Only Love From Now On’ is Carmen Villain’s most electronically-minded release to date, and finds her leaning into a deep, dub-like pace. It’s something she's nodded to previously, in the remixes for her 2019 LP ‘Both Lines Will Be Blue’, where Parris, Yu Su and DJ Python were among the names to put rhythmic spins on lush original cuts. Here, smoky organic percussion underpins Arve Henriksen’s FX-soaked trumpet on ‘Gestures’, while kosmische melodies flutter around a crackling, barely-there beat on ‘Future Memory’.
The album veers into glacial dub techno territory on 'Subtle Bodies', which has also been remixed by New York’s Huerco S – whose own sound hovers between abstract electronics and club music. Cloudy electronic textures and field recordings mingle with velvety clarinet and flute motifs (courtesy of Johanna Scheie Orellana) throughout the release, and it’s easy to sink into its mysterious atmosphere.
Carmen Villain describes her creative process as being like a “conversation with sound”, and it’s not hard to imagine the distinctive elements of ‘Only Love...’ as a flowing dialogue of styles. In her Selections, we hear some of these sounds in isolation, or paired off in twos and threes. From freeform vocal jazz and dub experiments into expressive club beats and intimate ambience, the ingredients that have come together in Carmen Villain’s own work each appear in their purest form. Dig in.
“It’s always a safe bet to buy any of their 12” - great, free, beautiful dubby jams and moods.”
“Perila has been releasing so much great music, and it was really nice to see her team up with Smalltown for this one.”
“Tirzah... just one of the best. ‘Devotion’ was the album I listened to the most the year it came out, and the title track with Coby Sey is one of my all time favourite tunes. ‘Colourgrade’ is a very different album, but just as beautiful in its own way. It really creeps up to you, and magical moments reveal themselves all over this with Tirzah’s beautiful and effortless voice leading the way.”
“I first discovered claire through her beautiful release for Longform Editions which made me cry. This album is just as beautiful - it really takes you somewhere that feels like a familiar memory, but also like you have been invited into someone's most private and intimate everyday life moments.”
“Another beautiful release from lovely Brian. I listened to this on the train from Oslo to Bergen watching the snowy landscape, and it made it feel like it was at least 20 degrees warmer out. Dreamy stuff. He’s got such a way with both harmony and rhythm.”
“I saw Loraine play live last fall, and it is one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a good while. She is such a wonderful and generous producer, and this album is brimming with emotive energy and playfulness.”
“Beautiful spiritual freeform vocal jazz, I particularly like the acapellas / spoken word bits.”
“Some beautiful piano and flute pieces on this. It’s no secret that I am a big sucker for flute. In the album description it says she describes herself as ‘less a composer than a channel’, and that makes perfect sense to me, how she creates beautiful pieces in collaboration with performers such as Maggi Payne. I think the channel idea is also what I find so engaging with wind instruments – the sound it makes only expresses what the human playing it wants to convey with breath. I’m so lucky because I get to experience this in close up all the time while collaborating with Johanna Orellana.”
“I keep coming back to this record. Just a masterful study of rhythm. If your foot isn’t tapping within minutes you are dead inside. Dub, techno and Tony Allen.”
“Big fan of Bendik’s beautiful and deeply touching music, and his last two albums, ‘Cracks’ and ‘Surrender’, have been on heavy rotation. Laurel Halo’s remix of ‘Cruising’ is an addictive and very satisfying dub jam where she’s processed Bendik’s saxophone into many little explosions and voices. And the more open, fragmented version on the flip is also a beaut.”