Carmen Villain's 'Both Lines Will Be Blue' Explores Andean Melodies Through Ambient Dub

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

Carmen Villain's latest album Both Lines Will Be Blue veers hard from her last two albums, trading her psychedelic roots for spacious ambient dub.

Both Lines Will Be Blue
Carmen Villain

Smalltown Supersound

5 July 2019

On her 2013 first album Sleeper, Carmen Hillestad, aka Carmen Villain, served a dense psychedelic rock brew, with her ghostly vocals, reverb-laden guitars, and deadened synths. On her following 2017 album Infinite Avenue, she stripped back the noise to sing dreamy psychedelic folk songs, majorly using acoustic instruments. While there were minor changes in tone, psychedelic tropes overarched her debut and sophomore albums, seemingly setting a foundation for more of the same aesthetic.

However, Hillestad's latest album Both Lines Will Be Blue veers hard from her last two albums. Trading her vocals and guitars for synths, flutes, field recordings, and even zithers, the seven-track album moves away from her psychedelic roots for spacious ambient dub.

With her vocals and guitars removed from the mix, the flute melodically dominates Both Lines Will Be Blue. With the flutist Johanna Scheie Orellana, Hillestad often improvised, welcoming melodies to emerge unfettered. She explained about Orellana, "turns out we both have a natural affinity for making melodies that sound like they come from the mountains in Latin America; maybe our mutual background with Latin parents?" As such, the Norwegian-Mexican Hillestad and the Chilean-Norwegian Orellana found harmony in Andrean melodies.

The opener "Observable Future" immediately begins Hillestad's exploration of Andean melodies through ambient dub. The flute leads the subtle synthscape. With minimal composition, the opener truly features Orellana's improvisation. Similarly, "I Could Sit Here All Day" flaunts a soothing flute melody. But this time, the flute is paired with the atmospherics of gleaming synths and zithers. Whether the composition is sparse or layered, Hillestad finds room for Orellana's flute improvisations to flourish melodically.

Yet, while Both Lines Will Be Blue certainly explores Andean melodies, even more, it considers ambiance. As such, Hillestad's most intriguing tracks are more concerned with using the flute to blend into atmospheres, rather than lead them. For instance, on "Type", the evolving atmosphere swallows the flute melodies. While the menacing dub beat and melancholic flute begin to resemble Skream's "Rutten", unlike the said reference, Hillestad's cut unexpectedly blossoms inspiriting layers of pianos and hazy synths. And on "Impossible Colour", the flute patiently progresses from wind tones to full melodies, but the staggering water droplets and delicate piano chords truly seize the atmosphere. For these tracks, Orellana's flute improvisations accompany Hillestad's already rich instrumentals.

Hillestad's first fully instrumental album brings about an intriguing exploration of Andean melodies through ambient dub. With such a drastic aesthetic change from her prior albums, it is difficult to suppose whether she will continue to explore dub music or return to her psychedelic roots. She already surprised once, shifting from singing acoustic tunes to fully producing and mixing dub tracks by herself. But of course, this uncertainty makes it even more exciting to see where Hillestad will take on next.







The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.


'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.