Marilyn Carino
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Marilyn Carino

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Alternative EDM


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Marilyn Carino @ Serendipity Martini

Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Marilyn Carino @ Wunderkammer - 3402 Fairfield Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46807

Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

Marilyn Carino @ King Plow Arts Space - 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta, Georgia, USA


The best kept secret in music


Don't you hate it when a certain band that you like doesn't do anything for a while, and then, when you're about to give up on them altogether, their (usually female) vocalist comes out with a solo album, and you're like, OK, I'll take that! - only to be bitterly disappointed by this mellow uninspired poppy singer-songwriter dung fest. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but for every Róisín Murphy there are dozens of [insert any other name of a trip-hop vocalist gone solo].

Now you understand the position I was in approaching the new record Little Genius by Marilyn Carino, whom some of you may know as the vocalist for Mudville. I don't know what exactly the reasoning was behind making a solo record (I'm planning on asking that question in the upcoming Q&A with Marilyn, which I'm really looking forward to). If some of it was to get her name more visible, not shadowed by the title of the group, then I must say - even though Little Genius is full of shadows, none of them hide the talent of Marilyn Carino. This, my friends, is how you do a solo album. You don't just do something different for the sake of doing something different. You do what you do best for the sake of making it sound even better.

Despite its chilling downtempo base, Little Genius is anything but mellow. There's so much passion in Marilyn's singing, that it becomes overwhelming in some parts. But the album is also so well structured that instead of hitting your senses randomly and leaving you crushed and confused, it captures you whole and washes you away, providing a complete experience, painting a picture abstract enough to be mysterious yet totally relatable. This image will of course be different for every listener, but I couldn't help picturing the ocean. Not just your generic ambient ocean as in "lots of water". A very particular ocean, ever-changing and alive, going through various stages of demonstrating its power to us mortals.

"Time Bomb" - the storm gathers, you can feel it in this pulsating beat and eerily calm vocals (which multiply, echoing and overlapping, just like dark clouds scattered across the sky). And then it starts. "King Of The World" makes its theatrical grand entrance. It's huge. It doesn't crush you - there aren't any elaborate orchestrations or layering of crafty samples. It just makes you feel small by its sophistication. It's perfect. "Monster Heavy" - devastation. There's no escape, this song captures whatever is left of you, the drums are ruthless and echoing vocals (Marilyn uses this element quite tastefully) drag you into the whirlwind of sound. But you already can hear the upcoming calmness in the keyboard parts. And "No Disgrace" brings it, with the beat carrying over some of the nervousness of the storm but the vocals are sunny and instrumentations are soothing. And it continues on, from the wavy cool boat ride of "S'cool" to the dangerous deep waters of "Whisper". From the trip-hop beat of "Special Dark" counterbalanced by psychedelic keyboards and jazzy vocals to the ambient anthem of "Modern Love". And the smooth sailing of "I Will Have Everything" takes us to the new and wonderful beginnings.

Even though I personally would like to hear more instruments accompanying Marilyn Carino's wonderful voice and sometimes the album's intentional borderlessness was throwing me off, Little Genius is an excellent record, brave and powerful, atmospheric and intimate. - Trippin' the Rift

At her Soundcloud site, Marilyn Carino calls her new Little Genius album “electronic soul,” but it’s a lot more soul than electronic. Her show Tuesday night at the Rockwood took awhile to set up: with her two keyboards, and her big Gibson hollowbody guitar, and a live rhythm section, it was obvious that this was going to be a real concert, not karaoke. You could compare the former frontwoman of Brooklyn downtempo/chillout group Mudville to Amy Winehouse or to Bjork, but Carino’s a thousand times more diverse than the first one and a lot more focused than the other. Alison Goldfrapp is another singer who comes to mind, but she can’t match Carino for unadulterated, lurid sultriness. And for all the raw sensuality in her delivery, Carino can also be incredibly subtle.

This was a trippy show. The tight, purist rhythm section of jazz bassist Ben Rubin (of Dred Scott’s group) on upright bass and Shawn Pelton (of cinematic noir soundscapers Mojo Mancini) on drums launched into a hypnotic backbeat as Carino spun webs of coldly moody, processed keys that contrasted with the slyly beckoning feel of her vocals. The catchy second song of the night set Carino’s voice against eerie roto organ moving in and out of the mix and a couple of trumpet solos that took it out triumphant and satisfied. Another had Carino building a lazy indie tune out of a single brooding, acidic guitar chord; later, she delivered hushed, suspenseful yet raw gospel-tinged soul over thoughtfully minimalist, echoey Rhodes electric piano.

A couple of the trip-hop numbers, including one that opened with a cascade of rainstorm piano before the textures got all woozy, had a darkly mesmerizing intensity: they wouldn’t have been out of place on the live Portishead album. They hit a cool Jazzmatazz vibe toward the end of the set, a hip-hop artist joining them to elevate the laid-back atmosphere as the trumpet soared. They closed with a deliciously noir, jazzy tune and then an old Mudville song, just bass, drums, trumpet and Carino’s bracing come-hither allure. - Lucid Culture/New York Music Daily

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. - All Music Guide

Although New York singer Marilyn Carino says listening to her catalog of work with new-millennium indie darlings Mudville "feels like a nostalgia trip," she's proud of what she and collaborator Ben Rubin accomplished: critical praise (in 2006, critic John Pareles of The New York Times described their music as "somewhere between Fiona Apple and Morcheeba"), a loyal worldwide following (even in Finland!), and a reputation (one she feels is misguided) as prominent purveyors of the dark, atmospheric beat vibe known as trip hop.

So it won't surprise fans to discover her latest release, Little Genius - recorded solo - packs a brooding one-two punch in tracks like "Time Bomb" and "Monster Heavy" with multi-genre influences and even shades of Carino's muse, Nina Simone. (She says the late chanteuse, whose song "Sinnerman" she discovered while watching David Lynch's "Inland Empire," "drags something very powerful out of me.")

But what folks don't know is how this Brooklynite and queen of downtown club-scene cool unearthed her new batch of torchy electronic soul: she wrote the songs during a three-month stopover on an organic farm called Serenbe in Georgia.

Although Carino spent time in this Southern nouveau Utopia to be with her (famous) artist fiance, she says the stint taught her a lot about independence.

"I was always in the shadow of powerful men in my life," the singer explains over sushi during a recent return visit to Atlanta. "I was alone in this house in the woods while my boyfriend was painting, so I learned Pro Tools and recorded every note of Little Genius myself."

Carino also did all the photography and graphic work for the album, as well as the filming, lighting, production and editing for her solo music videos.


Photo credit: self portrait by Marilyn Carino. Courtesy of Marilyn Carino.

The "Monster Heavy" video below features claymation by Latvian artist Elina Spura. Beware: video not for the faint of art.

As for the album's nine songs, Carino says each has a theme of independence and a liberation from past repression or regression.

"'No Disgrace' is about a childhood friend who ended up a heroin addict, HIV positive and in Bellevue. He called me for help, and I tried to encourage him. I kept thinking, 'If only he could not feel shamed and just be able to enjoy life from this moment on.'"

Carino, a Buddhist for nearly two decades, says her spiritual practice guides her desire to "distill music to its essentials." Her mantra of "simple sophistication" makes for often trance-like rhythms beneath a contralto that exudes sexiness as it dances between buttery low notes, clear chest power, and guttural wails - each sung with the precision and care of a traditional jazz diva. But tunes such as "I Will Have Everything" and "Special Dark" are anything but jazzy. Move over, Florence! Your Machine has some seriously ethereal competition.

Carino has written, recorded and performed with members of R.E.M, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and legendary producers Sly and Robbie. Little Genius is a fitting title for this collection - and its one-woman creator.

Marilyn Carino celebrates the release of Little Genius with a CD release performance at 116 MacDougal in New York on October 28 and at Grocery on Home in Atlanta November 12. For more information visit - The Huffington Post


Solo work:

"Little Genius" Album - 2011

King of the World - single
No Disgrace - single
Monster Heavy - single
Special Dark - single
S'Cool - single
Modern Love - single
Time Bomb - single
I Will Have Everything - single

With Mudville:

Mudville EP - 2003

Private Plane - single
High Rise - single
Nothing Gets You Going - single
Waterbird - single

The Glory of Man is Not in Vogue - 2005

The Hero of the World - single
Blown - single
Stoned - single
Perfect - single
Othello - single
Poets on Parade - single
In Orbit - single
Pray - single
Surfer Girls - single
Sunshine is On Me - single

Iris Nova - 2007

Eternity (featuring REM's Mike Mills) - single
Wicked (winner of 2008 Independent Music Award for best song - Electronica)

Wonder Boy - single
Brooklyn - single
Spirits in the Material World - single
The Spanish Gypsy - single
Joy - single
Duke - single
Sado - single
This Hollywood Life - single
Sparkle - single
Lotus - single



Marilyn Carino gained notoriety as the singing and songwriting half of Mudville. Her contributions to Mudville's three critically-acclaimed albums were lauded as "Nina Simone coming back from the dead to front Morcheeba" - her unique, moving voice hailed as "fearless", "enchanting" and "otherworldly".

Marilyn is also one half of the duo that is DJ Scratch n Sniff, a unique experience that includes live musicians improvising to ever-changing beats that delve into soul, jazz and electro-funk. Adding to the incredible musical vibe is the smell of freshly baking gourmet cookies being prepared and fed to the crowd throughout the set!

Check out the video of Scratch n Sniff in action at

"Little Genius" is Carino's solo incarnation, and the title of her first post-Mudville release. Written, performed, recorded and produced by Carino alone, Little Genius fine-tunes the grit and eclecticism of Mudville, adding a shot of dark adrenaline. Grinding organs and electro-beats come to life via Carino's soaring melodies and sumptuous vocals. Little Genius “delivers rapturous songs that churn like hot lava”. It's “an excellent record, brave and powerful, atmospheric and intimate.” ( The Huffington Post says, "Watch out Florence, your Machine has some serious competition!"

Carino has collaborated with members of REM (and is currently recording a film score and soundtrack with REM bassist Mike Mills, his first post-REM release), Neil Young and Crazy Horse and legendary producers Sly and Robbie. Her songs have been featured in the FX network hit Regenesis, and the feature films Vampires in Venice, Slutty Summer and Going Down in La La Land. Her song "Wicked" won the 2008 Independent Music Award for best song, Electronica. She is also an actor, appearing in the 2012 film Be Still.