Somber Musings of a Former Model
To what measure can indifference and individuation be expressed artistically, whether through sound or word? Will there ever come a work that makes a final statement on these dark themes, forever capping the endless cavity of detachment and isolation? How many ways are there to not care, to lazily toss out impassioned whines of absolute monotony and lack of passion?
Although Carmen Hillestad was a high-fashion model seen on the covers of countless magazines, Carmen Villain is a pseudonym intended to distance herself from a previous existence often assumed to be lacking in content and heavy on pretense. This is understandable. It’s a true challenge to be taken seriously when life consists mostly of having one’s picture taken, not to mention the fact that most of your personality and very essence are never part of what you cast out into the world. The invention of a new persona might be the only solution in an attempt to throw off the shackles of stereotype, but here you are still playing the game of assumed identity vs. ”true self”—whatever that is.
Sleeper is a bleak record, full of dour attitude and hollow emotion. Washed with reverb and double-tracked vocals, it swells and pulses impressionistically, serving better as a soundtrack, or “mood music,” than a strong statement of meaningful messages. It’s true there is no shortage of unique observations, introspective contemplations and character machinations lyrically, but the overwhelmingly morose delivery drags you down before you can even begin to connect. The inherent apathy colors everything so that even when she speaks of love, sin or wanting to see the starlight, it feels she has already given up.
That being said, the arrangements are spot-on in tone: Sulky, disconnected and often agitated. The garage guitars and heavy use of droning refrains keep us tethered in this world, with a good deal of production help from Norwegian musician/producer Emil Nikolaisen. To its credit, Villain’s music sits well amidst her influences. It may even be a more accessible version of these. However, this is all relative, as “accessible” is hardly a word to describe Sleeper. This is a competent debut from someone who may not have envisioned herself in this role. Perhaps a bit of time in these new shoes will yield more inspiration and something we can truly feel.