Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Magnetic Clamour of IRM

When I read earlier in 2009 that Charlotte Gainsbourg was releasing a second album in Janurary 2010 with Beck writing, producing and playing a lot of the music, I was immediately frothing at the mouth with anticipation. Charlotte's 5:55, which stood at #59 on my decade albums list, is a beautiful record. However, knowing that Air was her backing band then and Beck would be handling that now, it would come as no surprise when the album would sound shockingly progressive and different. Luckily I was able to hear IRM in part when Charlotte stopped in Philadelphia recently, her first time touring and first time in our fair city. Now that the album has officially graced our shores, I can safely say that it is a work of delightful genius. It's important to know that several songs address the near death experience Charlotte faced, hence having to have an MRI (IRM in French.) That said, the track "IRM" has the claustrophobic sounds that and actual MRI has. The clamour and shifting of mechanical parts and the otherworldly sounds that are emitted from the machine. The album has many sides, but one thing is apparent; Beck draws on percussion, acoustic guitars and orchestral arrangements (some done by his father.) The song "Vanities" is a delightfully stark track filled with a delicate guitar pluck to shadow Charlotte's voice and then the strings come in and change the mood even more. "Time of The Assassins" is a short but sweet tune with Beck's cooing in the background of the chorus. As usual, a highlight of the record is when Charlotte sings in her native French. The track "Le Chat du Café des Artistes" is one of the most Beck sounding tracks taking a page from "Dark Star", the best track from his record The Information. Brooding drums and bass are accentuated by a Hitchcockian string arrangement. What IRM does is expand upon Charlotte's strengths as a singer. Although 5:55 is an excellent record, IRM progresses beyond just the love song driven piano ballads and goes somewhere else in the stratosphere. Her duet with Beck, "Heaven Can Wait", shows that there is even more promise for her career. The album is a delight and if she returns to the United States to tour it further, be sure to check it out. It was a fantastic experience.

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