Review : Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
FiltermagazineIf Charlotte Gainsbourg’s previous choice of Air as producer and music partner was fairly obvious (ethereal, mercurial French actress; mercurial, ethereal French band), her most recent choice of Beck is certainly not. And where the former record, 5:55, was like springtime on the Seine, the mysteriously titled IRM is more like autumn in Alsace. Think about it: Charlotte is an actor singing, and Beck is a singer-songwriter oftentimes playing the chameleon. However, the one album in which Beck did breach the cold steel irony that has built his career, Sea Change, was heavily inspired and influenced by another Gainsbourg—Charlotte’s father, Serge, and his iconic Historie de Melody Nelson. Oh…the possibilities.
And wouldn’t you know it—Beck’s willingness to raid just about any genre works wonders when coupled with Mlle. Gainsbourg’s ability to inject matter-of-fact sexual energy into just about anything. (For the record, she once simply slid from the couch to the floor in my close proximity and I practically had to call room service for a bucket of ice.) Curiously, IRM doesn’t give the listener a chance to be eased into the unexpected. The opening title track mates a galloping, epileptic beat with detached noise experiments straight out of the Cabaret Voltaire handbook, whilst Charlotte chants Freudian terrors like, “Leave my head demagnetized/Tell me where the trouble lies” in an uncharacteristically robotic fashion. It’s pretty jarring, but you know, in the best possible way....full text
LeisureblogsThe daughter of French pop auteur Serge Gainsbourg and singer Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg has been a top-notch actress the last two decades (most recently starring alongside Willem Dafoe in “Antichrist”). But her infrequent detours into music have an integrity all their own. After making a provocative debut album overseen by her father in the ‘80s when she was just a teenager, Gainsbourg re-emerged in 2006 to record “5:55,” produced by Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich (with songwriting contributions from Air and Jarvis Cocker). “IRM” (Elektra/Asylum), her third release, finds her hooking up with yet another of her father’s acolytes, Beck, who produced, composed the music and cowrote the lyrics.
The singer’s plainspoken bi-lingual vocals have lost some of their wispiness, replaced by a firmer tone that matches the subject matter: an unflinching look at her near-death experience in a 2007 water-skiing accident. She underwent surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage and her frequent MRI brain scans are acknowledged in the album title (IRM is the French acronym for magnetic resonance imaging). Gainsbourg does not invite pity, however, nor does she indulge in survivor’s bromides. Instead she and Beck turn her trauma and treatment into a psychedelic experience, right down to reproducing the sounds of the womb-like scanner in the title song....full text
BbcBetween this, her third album, and 2006’s 5:55, Charlotte Gainsbourg – actress, singer and French icon – suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. IRM (the French for MRI) is exactly the sort of record an artist who has endured a life-threatening condition should make: deeply reflective yet questioningly optimistic.
IRM was recorded with Beck and written largely by him from lyrical scraps passed on by Gainsbourg. The works of Apollinaire, and Through the Looking Glass, were used as their guides, as the duo created something informed by both their pasts, yet not obsessively wedded to it.
It is full of invention. The title track takes a sample of an MRI machine and uses it as an instrument, akin to a guitar solo. The moving Vanities has a dramatic string arrangement by Beck’s father, David Campbell, which adds to the track’s unrelenting intensity. Dandelion, a most basic glam-blues number, sounds like something from the first T. Rex album. It is probably the point where it all works best. Beck's work as a pasticheur is made real by Gainsbourg's gentle sincerity....full text
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