November 29, 2011
Marilyn Carino Brings Her Little Genius To The Big A
Smoldering electronic tunes are the trademark of this independent artist
By Kristi York Wooten
- Photography by Colby Blount
Trip-hop torch singer Marilyn Carino recently performed at the underground Grant Park venue, Grocery, in support of her new release, Little Genius. LuxeCrush sat down with the peripatetic artist to discuss everything from her music idol Nina Simone to her devotion to Nichiren Buddhism.
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, 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 a prominent purveyor of the dark, atmospheric beat vibe known as trip-hop.
Carino’s ties to Georgia run strong: she’s engaged to a well-known abstract painter with Atlanta roots, crafted most of her recent album at Serenbe and has recorded with the likes of R.E.M’s Mike Mills. Nevertheless, Carino’s a Brooklynite through and through –and fearless and musically adept at a variety of styles. During a recent performance at Grocery on Home in Atlanta’s Grant Park, Carino (accompanied by Rubin and a guest drummer) pulled out all of the stops, wowing the intimate crowd with gutsy takes on jazz classics, as well as tracks from her latest release, Little Genius. The solo debut packs a brooding one-two punch with the moody-cool melodies of "Time Bomb" and "Monster Heavy" and multi-genre influences, which bring to mind Carino's muse, Nina Simone. Carino says that the late chanteuse, whose song “Sinner Man” she discovered while watching David Lynch's Inland Empire, "drags something very powerful out of me."
That Genius rocks is no surprise, but what folks don't know is how this queen of New York’s downtown club-scene unearthed her new batch of torchy electronic soul: she wrote the songs during a three-month stopover at the agrarian Serenbe.
“Serenbe was like a gilded cage – one I was happy to be in,” Carino says. “I’m just not a woodsy gal, so I wasn’t distracted by outdoor activities or noise and got a whole record made. Had there been a fabulous shoe store there I would have been in trouble.”
Although Carino spent time in the Peach State’s nouveau Utopia to be with her artist fiancé Michael David, whose work is often exhibited locally at Bill Lowe Gallery and is part of the permanent collections at The Guggenheim and The Met., 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 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.
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. Little Genius is a fitting title for this collection - and its one-woman creator.
For more information visit www.marilyncarino.com. Marilyn will perform at DROM in New York City on Dec. 16 at 8PM, www.dromnyc.com and stay tuned for future Atlanta dates in the New Year. For more info on the private venue Grocery on Home and upcoming music acts visit www.facebook.com/groceryonhome. Attendance is limited and RSVPs are required.
Marilyn’s Atlanta Map:
When visiting Atlanta, Marilyn Carino adores the following destinations:
Shopping: B Chic Consignment on Roswell Rd makes me squeal like a drag queen!
Dining: MF Sushi - divine omakase - and also Nan
Drinks: Spicy vodka/oyster Firecracker shots at Six Feet Under
Art: The most diverse, interesting and exciting art in Atlanta hands down is at Bill Lowe Gallery.
Coffee: Can't rock the caffeine - I avoid.