Album Review: Charlotte Gainsbourg: IRM

Posted on 24 January 2010
By Amy Roberts
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Charlotte Gainsbourg is one of those impossibly perfect women. The kind of woman whom, if you were to be exposed to their presence for more than an hour would no doubt break any merit of self-esteem you once held for yourself.

Stunningly beautiful as well as being an insanely talented actress (did you see her in Anti-Christ? I’m Not There? Fucking hell…) and musician, it’s enough to make you want to stay in the bed for the next week and take stock of your under-achieving, slacker life thus far.

IRM then is another trophy for the Charlotte Gainsbourg shelf of awesomeness. Named, interestingly, after the french designation of the MRI machine which bounced soundwaves off her cerebral tissue following a brain haemorrhage three years ago, the album is stunningly low-key and somehow also dreamily epic by the same turns.

It’s a truly gorgeous achievement that manages to be eerie, cheery and heartfelt and uncompromising in its desire heavy, breathy production.

The imprint of album producer and co-writer, Beck is undeniable on the album with many songs, in particular ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and ‘Time Of The Assassins’ on which he shares vocal duties, as well as the electro-drone of ‘Trick Pony’. But it’s still irrefutably Gainsbourg’s album – if just in terms in terms of substance and lyricism, despite the immediately identifiable Beck arrangements.

Having said all that though, the album is still something of an awkward fugue between the delicate, haunting folk and dream pop of its first half and the onslaught of genre confused songs which litter the later tracks, skipping between Kills-esque electro, country and dark experimentalism.

The album works best when it’s at its most simplistic – confessional and explorative of darkness – allowing itself to delight with a brooding and thoughtful set of arrangements punctuated with soft vocals, strings, percussion and piano. The song’s ‘La Collectionneuse’ and ‘In The End’ are especially exquisite, and daringly bare.

It’s a shame that IRM is somewhat blighted by the songs of its latter half – songs which actually, when stood alone, are enjoyable enough – they just don’t work within the context of the album, which is fantastic for its strength of storytelling.

The story is spilt open and totally interrupted by the intrusion of electro, which feels abrasive and ill-timed. But in the power of storytelling, perhaps this is exactly what Gainsbourg wants – after all, this is a woman unafraid to shock and push boundaries as fucking far as she needs to in order to get the story told.

Inconsistant or not – the album is utterly sumptious anyway despite its odd failings, and could become a definite nightcap favourite in no time at all.

Official Website:

IRM is out now