REVIEW: Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
Zach Hart Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
Release Date: January 26, 2010
Label: Because Music/Atlantic
On Charlotte Gainsbourg's latest record, IRM, she makes the interesting claim that she's left all her credentials behind. Perhaps Ms. Gainsbourg's definition of credentials greatly differs from the standard description. What more says credentials than being the daughter of iconic French singer-songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg, and 60's sex kitten Jane Birkin? To add to the brilliant credential of artistic pedigree, Gainsbourg's inspiration for IRM wasn't stemmed from some obtuse, intangible idea – it came from her own near-death experience. After spending time in and out of MRI machines, rounds of cranial drilling, and other fun procedures, the vision for a new record was spawned. To further refute her lack of credentials, was it mentioned that Gainsbourg handed the reins to Beck to turn medical misfortune into musical magnificence?
Beck's influence is clear enough – it shouts, rather than hints with subtleties. It's heard in the trotting bass loops and raw vibrancy, straight down to the man himself throwing in backing vocals. "Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes" swirls with melodramatic chamber pop, while the folk pleasantries of tracks like "Dandelion" add warmth and easiness to the unsure atmosphere. Beck's arrangements are effortless, albeit effortless to the point of disjointedness at times. These moments are forgiven, though, considering the unstable context of the record; Gainsbourg mutters like a worn patient - physically tired, but mentally on edge. Her delicate detachedness mingles with the orchestral haze, drifting like smoke in a dimly lit room. Anxious strings pluck while dissonant keys strike and search for a resting point. Even the more optimistic tracks are tinged with that vague need of finality.
Finality is not exactly reached. Gainsbourg takes on an eager journey for personal discovery with no definite stopping point. She yearns "to cross the desert and speak in tongues" as a distant whistles cries on the effervescent "Me & Jane Doe". Scatting guitar and strutting bass accompany Gainsbourg as she has an Alice in Wonderland moment on "Looking Glass Blues". She poses all the existential questions. She desires to see the world through new eyes, and ponders over mistakes. Gainsbourg worries too much. With her Mad Hatter of a producer on board, she can rest assured that this album is far from a mistake. It's just another shining credential