Carmen Villain “Sketch for Winter IX: Perlita”

Normally I am more of a fall/winter person, but this year, by mid-December, I was ready for it all to be over. Grey skies, cold winds, the promise of snow days were always enough to keep my mind in a good place, but obviously this year we’re all sick of being stuck inside and the cold, wet weather we’ve had has felt more oppressive than ever. Carmen Villain’s contribution to Geographic North’s incredible Winter Sketches series captures those feelings with grace.

The Norwegian-Mexican artist’s work is rarely predictable, but always delivers. Over these six excursions, Villain paints vivid aural pictures that juxtapose old memories with the oppressive nature of now. “Light in Phases” obscures echoing voices and field recordings of gentle rain with slow-moving cryptic basslines and reverb-laden zither that can’t help but bring Laraaji to mind. It’s like the moments you try to put on a happy face, but the sadness and sense of loss is overbearing. 

On “Molina,” Villain let’s go of the facade with matter-of-fact, melancholic piano circles drowning out dogs barking and birds chirping in the background. Methodically looped, the piece lets the freezing darkness in without letting it take over. We’ve all learned new levels of resilience in the past year and as the music fades, there’s a steely resilience saying that we may not be okay, but that’s okay. So much on Winter Sketches lies under the surface that repeated listens are rewarded with new layers and fresh perspective.

As she closes Winter Sketches, Villain let’s a little sun in. Rippling beats propel “Agua Azul” into the next season. Joanna Scheie Orellana’s flute is the first rays of spring pushing in as tiny pockets of hope blossom into something greater. It’s a beautiful send off for a complex album that sits as one of the finest installments of the Winter Sketches series.