Carmen Villain took her time making the follow-up to her lovely 2013 debut album Sleeper, and that unhurried quality adds to the transcendent beauty of Infinite Avenue. The confidence to slow down and not over-embellish her music echoes throughout the album, and the way it drifts into listeners' ears heightens Sleeper's spellbinding qualities. On "Water," Villain sets a mood of hypnotic, sustained beauty, while the powerful softness of the interlude "Simple Things" is rivaled only by Grouper. The Planetarium EP hinted at Infinite Avenue's strength, and its title track remains a highlight, with Villain's fragile vocals matched by equally delicate piano and synth drones that complete its gorgeously contemplative vibe. As serene as Infinite Avenue seems, its songs swirl with complexity: "Red Desert" sounds heavenly even though Villain sings "I've got potential but there's demons in me/It all means nothing." On ambivalent tracks like "She's Gone to California," her growing self-assurance means the influences she displayed on Sleeper are fused into her own distinctive sound, even when Infinite Avenue shifts from electronic to acoustic and back again. A simple, looping keyboard melody guides her meditations on "Connected," while Deathprod's Helge Sten adds subtle noise and textures to the dark, gliding standout "Quietly." Villain manages to hold her own with a collaborator as formidable as Jenny Hval on "Borders," an uneasy but bewitching song that puts her piercing vocals in a very different setting than Hval's own work. While highlights abound, Infinite Avenue is most stunning as a piece, and confirms that Villain has come into her own.
Infinite Avenue Review
by Heather Phares