The Quietus | Reviews | Carmen Naughty

Carmen Villain is a world builder, and these days, I’m thrilled about it. (Have you seen the world we live in?) Like many people, I’m still trying to figure out 2020 and 2021, the latter – again, many people probably do – being almost certainly the most traumatic year of my life, personally. I won’t go into details here, although none of this is a big secret. Anyway, in many ways a year can be traumatic, last year was. Not just on a personal level, but collectively, at all levels of society: local, citywide, statewide, national, global. Then, as soon as we may know what fair has happened to us, a tidal wave of shit looming has us all on our heels. Anyway, sometimes you have to fall asleep for half an hour and forty-five minutes. So yes, thank goodness for the world builders.

Villain evokes both natural and man-made landscapes, achieving colorful sonic panoramas of rich purples. There are vibrant yellows and oranges and greens, and warm reds tempered by cool blues. There are sun spots on the water, dampness in the air, condensation on the foliage. Things are lush for the most part, and sometimes covered in dew, but there are also quiet, empty streets. You can absolutely see it. And you can feel it – a certain sense of safety in nature, safety with friends, with family. There is also a kind of specificity. We are not talking about vague platitudes or generalizations. Villain’s worlds are inner visions projected outward.

This is a description of Villain’s latest album, Only love from now on, Besides. It’s the fifth in a series of near-perfect, roughly album-length releases that began with the release of Both lines will be blue in mid-2019. I’ve written at length about Villain’s aesthetic before: “gentle but never wimpy”; “the crossroads of dub, ambient and new age”; “canyon-style dub space”. And all of that still applies. What we are witnessing here is not a radical reinvention (which is hugely overrated anyway), but the continued refinement and mastery of a specific medium, and the judicious introduction of new elements and a new collaborator. en Arve Henriksen – who joins Villain on trumpet and electronics with longtime collaborator Johanna Scheie Orellana on flute.

only loveThe three collaborations of – which close the record and mark its midpoint – are highlights. Henriksen appears on the long opener “Gestures”, a track that emphasizes and foregrounds Hasselli’s fourth worlds that Villain appropriates throughout the LP as brass and woodwinds float and swirl to a beat-pounding beat. and swings. The track has a languorous feel but is never aimless, serving as the perfect introduction to the album’s overall vibe, which is further underscored by the beatless title track featuring Orellana. Over the course of eight minutes, layers of flute and blowing and whistling drones intertwine in a kind of aerial choreography. The composition retains an almost meditative sensibility until around five minutes, when Orellana’s flute briefly releases and soars in a moment of ecstatic illumination. If ‘Gestures’ underscores Hassell’s sound in Villain, ‘Only Love From Now On’ underscores his affinity for the cosmic jazz of Alice Coltrane et al.

Closer ‘Portals’, once again featuring Orellana, brings the album full circle. The interplay between the rhythmic rhythm and the wind instruments recalls the opening of the album, as if adding the voice of Orellana to the preceding conversation. Crucial to the success of the track, and to the success of the album as a whole, is Villain’s attention to bass and rhythm in his compositions. His work possesses a rich variety of basses and growls with unders. Even at points where there isn’t really a beat, like on ‘Silueta’, the rhythmic momentum is never overlooked. Things don’t just drift away. The loops spin like wheels within wheels upon wheels, advancing the track to its conclusion.

While there’s a comforting escapist aspect to listening to Villain’s work, she’s not whimsical. Instead, I would say that there is something utopian in these compositions, of what could to be. There is a strange sense of history, of something earned. Likewise, his is not a world without tension. You can sense the precariousness of it all, perhaps in recognition of the importance of balance – between man and nature, and in all things. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it, projecting.

Of all the things that have made the past year or two so difficult to process, perhaps the strangest was the realization that it wasn’t all bad. There were ups among the downs. Viewed from a slightly different angle, Villain’s upbeat music may seem like an acknowledgment of this, expressly composed to help us see that even in a world awash in ugliness and hate, beauty and love are possible. And if these anomalies can exist, justice must also sometimes be accomplished in an unjust world, and the human must also exist in an inhuman world. And so on. At the risk of sentimentality, Villain’s liveliest conjuration inside Only love from now on maybe just hope. And if that unexpectedly transcends the runtime of the album for a day or an hour or even a few minutes, that’s a priceless gift.

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