“I wanna see the starlight on the rails,” sings Carmen Villain on “Made a Shell,” one of the many highlights of her forthcoming debut album, Sleeper. (Of the album’s 12 songs, about the only ones that don’t feel like highlights, in fact, are the two minute-long interstitial tracks.) It’s a beautiful image, joining heaven and earth in a single line of flight that runs all the way to the horizon. Villain (Carmen Maria Hillestad) knows a thing or two about escapes — until three years ago, the Norwegian singer, songwriter, and producer was posing for Vogue and walking in Paris’ haute couture shows; Sleeper represents her retreat to a murker, messier world, wrapped up in a darkness that the strobes can’t penetrate.
Villain’s cascading sheets of feedback and detuned clang faintly recall Bad Moon Rising-era Sonic Youth, but sweeter and sultrier; co-producer Emil Nikolaisen, of shoegazing Norwegian psych rockers Serena Maneesh, plays drums and lends background ambience (or, as the album credits put it, “boombox symphonies”). Villain begins the song with a plea: “Take me away dear nothing / Slow smoke please come embrace me.” Turbulent, all-consuming, and cathartic, “Made a Shell” does just that.
Sleeper, featuring further co-production by Prins Thomas, and mastered by Shellac’s Bob Weston, is out March 12 on Smalltown Supersound. Check out “Made a Shell” below, and listen to “Lifeissin” along with a Prins Thomas remix of the song here.