Track By Track: Carmen Villain – ‘Infinite Avenue’

From fashion to music, Carmen Maria Hillestad has had quite the journey into creating another LP for moniker Carmen Villain. Having started out as a model, Hillestad turned her ears elsewhere, and what an impeccable decision that was. Her entire album was written, tracked and produced in her own homebuilt studio, all alone and at the mercy of her own thoughts. That being said, Infinite Avenue plays more like an intimate diary, created from the sense of pursuing one’s self love while watching the horrors of the world creep into their thoughts, evidenced in the lyrics and atmosphere of “Borders.”

Carmen Villain opens the record with the title track, almost spacey in it’s approach. There’s a myriad of vocals swirling behind in the refrain, constantly adding an ethereal presence to the track. It’s a stunning opener, inviting listeners to get lost in Carmen Villain’s delicate approach to songwriting. Image driven lyrics, soothing soundscapes and a smooth pace help define songs such as “Red Desert” and “Connected.” Penultimate track “Water” flows with a pristine ambience, highlighted by the percussion reigning the background noise, accenting Carmen Villain as a songwriter enhanced by the thoughtfulness of the music, by the grace of the emotive presence and the timbre of detail.

New Noise Magazine was able to have Carmen Villain discuss every aspect of Infinite Avenue, including the lyrics and sound of every track present. Listen to the incredible album right here, and read along to an insightful, detailed love letter of a record.

Purchase Infinite Avenue here.

Infinite Avenue – This is one of the few tracks I wrote in the traditional songwriting way; I was just messing around with different tunings on my acoustic guitar, and came up with the guitar parts in a day or so. Then I wrote the main vocal melody, and added the backing vocals. I tried adding some more stuff, but stripped it back, as felt the track was better that way. This is one of the older tracks on the album.

Red Desert – This one was born out of a drum-loop which I re-amped, and then added the flute-synth chords to. I played it live in that format a few times, but felt that the beat was too clunky and wasn’t grooving enough. So I decided to try recording some real drums and then chop it up and make a new loop out of it. I wanted the track to have a lot of percussive elements and for the instrumentation to be quite rich, as the song is quite slow in tempo. So added some CR-88 beats to it, reversed some of it ++ I also layered in a nice deep drum machine kick, as I wanted the kick to have a deep feel to it. The song is about self doubt and guilt for affecting people close to you with your darkness. I watched Antonioni’s Deserto Rosso after I wrote it, and decided the title was a perfect fit.

Simple Things – This is a little abstract instrumental piece I made in a day or so, just playing around with different textures and effects.

Quietly – Another track I wrote on the acoustic guitar, born out of playing around with different tunings. The whole song was written, then I put the guitar through my pedals and found the right reverb landscape for the song to live in. It was then mixed by Helge Sten, who gave it a more isolated but clearer feel, which fit it perfectly, I think. One of my favorite tracks on the album.

Borders – This was originally an instrumental born out of a vocal loop that I made on my SP-404. I processed the loops with different effects, and I used them in different parts of the track to create textures and movement. The beat is pretty simple and straight forward, but works as a base for the track I think. I had been talking to Jenny about collaborating in some way, and decided to send her the track to see if she wanted to come up with some vocals for it. What came back was this superstrong chorus with a melody that wouldn’t come naturally to me, which along with her voice really lifted the track and made it something else. I was surprised by the lyrics, but they kicked off memories of my own, so I wrote my vocal parts before mixing it to the finished result. Also a favorite of mine on the album.

She’s Gone To California – I didn’t really want this track to be on the album, but the label insisted, so I decided to let go and listen to them. I like the song, and I think its the most classical songwriter song on here. I really enjoyed arranging the cellos for it, then hearing the cellist Ingvild bring it it to life.

Connected – This was born out of the synth-loop you hear right from the start. It’s a Roland SH101 sequence patched through guitar pedals. It was a lot of fun to add the various vocal layers and synths, its one of the things I enjoy the most when writing/producing. Sometimes things happen by surprise, and it can enhance the sonic palette.

The Moon Will Always Be There – One of the later tracks I made for the album, I’ve really been enjoying making instrumental music for a good while now, and this is the only purely instrumental track on this album. It started off with the kick, (which I worked hard on to soften up a bit!), the midi-mallets, bass, and the Korg ms-20 bass drone and noise. I love making little melodies with flute-synths and I had so much fun doing so on this one. I had wanted to do something on the piano for a while when I started this track, so added in the piano as a kind of lead in this. I feel like the track is kind of French, don’t know why, haha.

Water – This is a song I also wrote on the guitar. It was written for some friends of mine that were going through a very hard time, and generally for us suffering from depression, there has been a lot of it around me in the last few years. Im very fond of the chorus lyrics; sea meets the clouds / lights running out / but we see each other . It’s sad but also worth remembering to reach out to people.

Planetarium – The last song I wrote for this record, it was born out of an ms-20 bass drone, which I added a super simple, reverbed piano to. I had been thinking of making a song where I sing in a higher pitch, as I really like high pitch vocals layered on top of each other. So I wrote the lyrics inspired by feeling very small and looking out, rather than looking in. The spoken word bit is a slightly self-loathing sarcastic little thing that just came to me one night, and I wanted to add some spoken stuff in the record, and felt like it worked in this song. I really love the way this song works as the end of the record, especially when the noise drowns it out, then cuts out and there is a very faint reverb/echo tail from the vocals.


Photo Credit: Signe Luksengad

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