- Thom Jurek
The debut solo album by Marilyn Carino, formerly of Mudville, is a startling meld of sonic and lyric contasts. These nine songs, with their downbeat tempos, shimmering, layered, sometimes angular textures, and crisscrossing rhythmic and drenched-in-soul melodic architectures, swallow the listener whole -- albeit lovingly.
Carino's luxuriant, evocative alto explores her range and completely inhabits her material -- she wrote all but one track on the set: she performed and produced it too, employing loops and electronics (some of them primitive) in creating an immediate space for raw expression. Carino's songs are centered around the struggle for radical self-acceptance and its result: independence from neuroses, both our own and those who would seek to imprison us with their own.
Her bullshit detector is working full time here. On "Time Bomb," the sultry, clipped tempo and muted backdrops allow Carino's voice to move inside the rhythm; she asks: "Can you let go of something you know like a number".. Maybe I'll tire soon of the mire of longing..." "No Disgrace" begins with spacy, cold textures, but Carino's ability to inject powerful emotion into virtually anything she sings, caresses an elegant pop melody from the soundscape to address her subject: "You got glass hands, cheat sheets, a crazy mouth - and so what? In this place, no disgrace, only a glow."
Despite its title, "Monster Heavy" doesn't have a pulse until about halfway through. Glistening ambiences and Carino's vocal authority carry melody and texture to a place of uneasy union; desire is expressed nakedly. When the rhythm does kick in, she rises to the occasion and sings directly above it. The jazzy, drifty, "Special Dark" reveals Nina Simone's influence. With cracked guitars, crunchy loops, and suffocatingly close inner spaces, Carino's protagonist finds the thinnest membrane inside the cocoon and breaks it open by confessing vulnerability and in turn liberating her protagonist: "..Turn to honey my will of steel.. my secret's out." The syrupy rhythmic sludge in "King of the World" is turned back on itself as her throaty contralto and falsetto alternately indulge obsession and conflict that seeks a solution through desire's inherent irony.
The cover is a balladic read of David Bowie's "Modern Love, " which feels like a futuristic gospel hymn; it's a conflicted paean to the nature of amorous commitment. A sampled church organ underscores Carino's gliding vocal; it creases the tune's seams, bleeding through its lyric with emotion, impure and insistent. It questions and affirms the core of Bowie's argument simultaneously. Little Genius is a noteworthy debut, a logical separation from, and extension of, the music Caino's been making for nearly a decade. It is an artful set of brave, assured electronic soul tunes, housed in skillfully executed grooves and expresses with a voice that is free of artifice in its expressions of longing, struggle, empathy and desire.
“Marilyn Carino sings about troubled longings and bleak surreal visions... her melancholy voice (surrounded by) brooding, minor-key tracks that start with electric piano and guides you brilliantly into smoky, ominous lounge territory, somewhere between Fiona Apple and Morcheeba.”
- John Pareles
“In the hands of the smoldering vocalist Marilyn Carino... down-tempo beats, haunted-matinée-style organ playing, and electronic flourishes coalesce into something familiar yet wholly unique.”
- John Donohue
"Marilyn Carino's quirky wail is plenty spirited.."
“Mudville's debut LP, The Glory Of Man Is Not In Vogue, snakes through esoteric rhythms and beats care of Rubin and soars with the whiskey sour illustrative harmonies of Carino. Unmistakable hits such as the opening track ‘Hero of the World’ and the twangy early morning fog of ‘Surfer Girls’ make Mudville an enchanting listen… a testament to the healing powers of rhythm [that] should not go undiscovered.”
“The roll call of guest musicians (on Iris Nova), including REM’s Mike Mills, is testament to the immense respect that singer Marilyn Carino and bassist Benny Cha Cha carry in the underground music scene in New York City. ‘Wonder Boy’‚ allows Carino to deliver the vocal performance of a lifetime, powerful to the point of bringing you to tears. It’s a song that can rank alongside major-league acts like Radiohead, U2 or even REM for that matter. For those who are getting increasingly impatient waiting on the long awaited third album from Portishead, you need to download this now.”
“Smoldering like the remnants of a fire, or maybe the beginnings of what will become a blistering blaze, (the twelve tracks on Iris Nova) are a musical force… a slow burn coaxed into well-fueled flames that produce considerable amounts of heat. Adding interest to Carino and Cha Cha’s chemistry are lyrics that are ethereal, quirky, and questioning, complementing the evocative production with ease. The genre-blending that some musicians work so hard to achieve here seems effortless, genuine, and unique.”
"A perfect melding... imagine Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba on a new album"