Hence new album Only Love From Now On, her fourth full-length and the culmination of a build-up that really began with the turn in sound evident from third album Both Lines Will Be Blue (2019, Smalltown Supersound) and the subsequent releases Affection In A Time Of Crisis (2020, Longform Editions) and Sketch For Winter IX: Perlita (2021, Geographic North). While the seed of her aesthetic was planted earlier, it has blossomed into something unexpected, benevolent in its composure and altogether luxuriant in its sensuality. Perhaps that’s why she collaborated with the likes of Jenny Hval and Parris – appearing on the latter’s new debut album. And why he – along with Biosphere, DJ Python and others – have contributed remixes for her.
If her themes, especially now, are wide, philosophical, and occasionally abstract, the emotional tenor of Hillestad’s music is clear and purposeful. Makes sense that her key musical touchstones are dub, ambient, and cosmic jazz – flexible vehicles for tranquil wonder. While it may not contain voice or lyrics, as her two earliest records do, she describes it as, “wishing to maintain a sense of careful optimism for the future, while on the cusp of something unknown.”
Listening to Only Love From Now On is simultaneously comforting and alluringly strange. Partly it’s the contributions of guests Arve Henriksen (trumpet, electronics) and Johanna Scheie Orellana (flutes). Partly it’s the fluidity between instruments – such as clarinets – field recordings, the studio, jam, and careful composition. She calls the process a conversation with sound that occurs in her deliberate attempts to experiment with new methods, like granular synthesis, for her music-making. But mostly that strange comfort is in the peace and grateful contentment she has found via the stark recognition of her own privilege – laid bare by the pandemic. Only Love From Now On is fueled by the sense of scale in feeling small in the face of things so large, the contemplation of how the biggest impact we can have is in the people close to us, the attempt to make sure that impact is a positive one, and the choice to try to focus on love instead of fear.