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on 20 February 2010
As we review the 2009-2010 years, we can all say that Charlotte Gainsbourg got quite a professional success, and for two reasons. The first one is with the excellent role she gave in Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, which has made her name more known in the film industry and made her an actress to be respected. And finally for this excellent album, co-produced with Beck. In it she manages to speak about the operation she had to do three years ago and put a lot of the emotions that she felt in Lars Von Trier's Antichrist. A great idea from Beck to include a new version of "Le chat du Café des Artistes", originally written by the french-canadian singer Jean-Pierre Ferland. It adds an eerie and mysterious touch to this album.

A great work from an excellent singer and a great way for me to discover Beck, which I didn't knew before.
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IRM = MRI = Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Following a serious water-skiing accident in 2007
Ms Gainbourg sustained a life-threatening brain injury.
The experience of that trauma, the surgery and subsequent
MRI monitoring form the inspiration and backdrop to this
uniquely personal collaboration with American songwriter/
producer Beck. That she faced the experience head-on
(so-to-speak) and delivered this fine album is to be applauded.

The reflections of that difficult time are handled in lyrics
which are subtle, unaffected, ambiguous and deeply personal.

The thirteen songs in this collection display a wide range
of emotions and atmospheres. From fear and fragmentation :
'Master's Hands' and 'IRM'; through stubborn hope :
'In The End' - a stompingly good song!; self re-evaluation :
the profoundly beautiful 'Burning Vanities'; dark nightmares :
the disturbingly surreal 'Trick Pony' and 'Greenwich Mean Time';
the optimistic four-square blues of 'Dandelion' and on the final
track 'La Collectionneuse' transformation and redemption.

Ms Gainsbourg's voice has never been a great instrument but
what she has she uses well. Her breathy tones complement the
dream-like quality of much of the subject matter perfectly.

Beck's compositional and production skill puts flesh on the bones
of these elusive and ephemeral psycho/physical experiences with
intelligently complex musicality. Sometimes stripped down to almost
nothing; sometimes richly-layered and wonderfully exotic.

For my money the string and percussion arrangement of 'Voyage'
forms the fast beating heart of this quietly visionary project.

Ms Gainsbourg deserves our admiration for exorcising her demons in
such a publicly vibrant way. The total absence of narcissism and
self-pity is refreshing given the painful truth of its conception.

Highly Recommended.
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on 29 April 2010
This is the first album of Charlotte Gainsbourg that i've heard and i'm very pleased with it :)

You can tell that Beck Hansen has produced it as it has his patented sound all over it. The low-fi drums, spazmodic guitars, warm strings and quirky riffs. But above all - absorbingly catchy hooks.
Charlotte's vocals are really well suited to the musical style as she always delivers clearly and seems to really enjoy inevitable cool atmosphere that the songs exude.

Check it out on the download section - IRM

Great stuff.
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on 8 December 2009
Anyone with a passing familiarity with Charlotte Gainsbourg's work in the medium of both music and film will know that the woman brings a lot of her fathers' eccentricity to the table. It doesn't take a physicist to figure out that her work in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" was one of the most painful (literally) experiences ever captured on film, yet she went on to render it in an almost blank-faced fashion, dead-panning throughout the movie until its' visceral climactic conclusion.

On "5:55", which I rated rather highly a few years ago, Charlotte worked with a production team that understood that the only way to make her light, spoken-word singing voice work, was to complement it with strings, violins, and quiet piano interludes. Add to this a medium dose of musical experimentation, and an epic was born. "5:55" found and captured something that no other album has been able to since, and it is truly a unique work in more ways than one. From the jangly musical perfection that is "Everything I Cannot See" to the ponderous morbidity of "The Operation", its something best appreciated by lovers of the independent French music scene, of which thankfully I am a subscriber.

Post "Antichrist" and her much publicized accident, Gainsbourg returns with an album that could possibly even perplex Serge. The immediate sense of coherency that heralded "5:55" is missing here, with lead (and standout) track "IRM" setting the tone for a curious oddity, an album where the stakes are higher, the experimentation more visible, and the voice showing absolutely no signs of evolution at all. While Gainsbourg is certainly alluding to her time spent with the magnetic equipment that discerned her injuries at the time, the song itself is an ode to the clunky bit of equipment an MRI machine really is. With Beck at the forefront, one would expect no less, but in stark contrast to lead single from "5:55" ("The Songs that we Sing"), "IRM" is not instantly memorable, and nor is it meant to be. In that context I would readily compare it to Bjork Gudmundsdottir's "Cvalda" from "Selmasongs", or indeed, the entire "Drawing Restraint 9" project by Matthew Barney.

Shades of Jane Birkin crop up on the albums' only real duet (though joint production credits abound elsewhere). "Heaven Can Wait", while sporting a now infamous video, is a somber take on a nursery rhyme gone wrong, and instead works as a silent lamentation on all things lost. Serge Gainsbourg's work towards the end of his career focused on topics such as death, loss, grief and in typical fashion he bounced back from these with jolly ditties written to the follies of love and alcohol. This gene seems to have skipped Charlotte, as she seems even more depressed on "IRM" than she ever has (the album makes her '80s debut "Lemon Incest" seem like a fun day at the circus).

Indeed, the sinister and morbid songwriting only elevate the overall tone of the music, as "In The End", a classic piece of French pop if there ever was one. The track combines the best of the 1960s French yeye stylings with a more British Invasion feel that underscores its' simplicity. But the lyrics! How clever these songwriters were, and Charlotte's airy vocals, often conveying almost nothing, do well in such dark surroundings. Consider this a companion piece to the novella "My Life in Rose Red" and you wouldn't be much off the mark.

M.I.A's contribution is as stellar as Becks, especially on 'Greenwich Mean Time', which is infinitely more adventurous than anything on "5:55" or even on anything else on "IRM". Its moments like these when Gainsbourg lets loose, Yoko Ono style, that a true glimmer of her personality shines through, and its every bit as guarded and disturbed as her lead role in "Antichrist" would let us believe. This is not a pretty, happy record. But it is an essential one, and clearly one of the frontrunners for Album of the Year.

Four and a Half Stars. Indispensable.
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on 1 February 2010
Having only heard of Charlotte in her acting guise, I was surprised to learn of her having released a couple of albums of late.
I remember watching Antichrist a few weeks back (not the easiest watch, I'll admit) and finding her utterly mesmerising, and in possession of quite possibly the loveliest voice I'd ever heard (with perfect diction)

When I found out about her heritage in music, I thought I'd give her two albums (this and 5:55) a punt.

I'm very happy I did! 5:55 is fantastic, but this just edges it in my opinion.
the music is quite tin-pot sounding in part (it definitely has that classic Beck feel to it) but it pulls together really nicely, with some epic Serge-esque string sections help to give the whole affair quite a "complete" feel.

It seems I've fallen under Ms Gainsbourg's spell somewhat, where I've heard others dismiss her as a "non-singer" I'd have to disagree....I think her breathy whispers compliment her choice of tracks perfectly.

There are several stand out tracks on the album (in particular the title track, replete with sinistir mechanical M.R.I whirrings and a tribal thump) and the constant changes of pace help it maintain a nice flow and stops it from settling into a slump (something I think 5:55 is unfortunately guilty of in places)

I'd recommend this heartily to anyone looking for something a bit "different" to the usual fare, it's certainly not going to be getting much airplay (that's for sure)

Ps - the music video on the bonus DVD is completely bonkers.
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on 6 February 2010
In 1971, aged 42, Serge Gainsbourg entered a London recording studio armed with a 50-peice orchestra and the beautiful Jane Birkin on his arm, he later emerged with his pop masterpeice 'L'Histoire de Melody Nelson'. The album is a true monument of French art and has many admirer's including Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Sterolab and Beck. It is Beck who is of most interest here, for in 2009 Charlotte Gainsbourg entered an American studio armed with more than 30 musicians and the multi-talented Beck Hansen on her arm. And here we are in 2010, Ms Gaingbourg has emerged with another pop masterpeice.

It would be wholly unfair to sit here and compare this record with her father's legacy (even though I just have) but it is almost impossible not to draw some comparisons. For a start it is interesting from the social aspect that it is now the male artist (Beck) supporting the female protaganist, but then one is drawn towards the question of just who is playing the part of the Jane Birkin style muse when Beck is writing all but one of the songs featured on this set, is he Gainsbourg's male muse or indeed is she playing the supportive role towards his most creative and playful release since 1996's 'Odelay'?. Either way it does'nt matter, because between them they have released a mighty fine record and certainly a career high for Gainsbourg.

The album opens with the dreamy 'Masters Hands'. It's African-style percussion, bass and sparse acoustic guitars are the foundations to which Gainsbourg unleashes her whimsical vocal style. The moment two minutes in where the strings make their first appearence is both beautiful and prothetic for the entire record. Track 2 is the M.I.A-style title track which uses a heavy military percussion and some creative multi-harmonising, all the while Gainsbourg shows a flair for some nice euro-rapping and even shows the confidence to refrence The Beatles ('Looking through a glass onion'). Track 3 'Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes' is probably the closest the album gets to sounding like 'L'Histoire de Melody Nelson' with it's use of an orchestra and it's french lyrics, it is arguably the records most stately moment and closely resembles the sound that Portishead acheived in the mid 90's. Other highlights on the album include the drum 'n' piano stomp that is 'Heaven Can Wait', the stunning 'Time Of The Assasins' and original ending 'The Collector' which has one of the most beautiful climaxes I've heard in a long time. A special mention also for the little dittie 'Me And Jane Doe' which sounds like it would feel at home on any number of Indie film soundtracks like 'Juno' or 'the Squid And The Whale'.

In 1971 Serge Gainsbourg's masterpeice was severly overlooked by critics and the general public. In the 40 years since it's inception it has gained recognition by word-of-mouth and celebrity endorsment. He spent the rest of his life trying to recreate it's magic but eventually turned his attention to film and predominantly television. When he he died in 1991 (aged 62) he was a French icon and french president François Mitterrand hailed him as the modern Charles Baudelaire (a nineteenth century french poet). In 2010 Charlotte Gainsbourg (aged 38) has produced 3 albums and appeared in various films (most notably '21 Grams', 'I'm Not There' and 'Antichrist'). She has the un-enviable situation of having to life outside of her father's immense shadow but this record shows that she is more than capable of acheiving such a lofty goal. A truly essential purchase and France may just have found another sweetheart to stand alongside Carla Bruni.
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on 11 February 2017
I bought this on the basis that if it's half as fine as '5:55' it'll be worth the minimal outlay. Whereas the aforementioned previous album had dreamy vocals by CG and equally dreamy music by the Air boys with the added bonus of lyrics by the Divine Neil Hannon and almost as erudite Jarvis Cocker - this is a less wonderful series of collaborative tracks. There are several appealing tracks (esp. the second half) and a few stinkers, but an album worth playing occasionally.
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on 28 January 2010
I won't go into an in-depth review of the music here, other than to say the overall quality of the songs and production is excellent. From the first listen I was immediately 'drawn' into the album and I would describe it as a perfect, but also different follow up to 5:55. Beck's production adds an element of a 'California' sound and mixed with Charlotte's silky voice it is a must for any Spring/Summer playlist.

In terms of the this limited edition version, the packaging is great, the DVD content is interesting and watchable and overall it is probably a 'must have' for a 'true collector'.

However, there is quite a big BUT - I would recommend the iTunes deluxe version above this one.

The reason why I ended up getting the iTunes version was a strange one. For some reason the CD of the album could not be read by my Laptop and as I always like to rip my CD's to iTunes, I felt compelled to download the album anyway - another sign of how much I rate the album itself, and I am glad I did this.

You get all the content of this limited edition and more including extra pictures, video, commentary and the navigation interface is great. I used to think that the good CD with a good booklet was always far superior to a download album, but over time with the improvements to sound quality, ease of use and finally the advent of 'iTunes LP', I will have to think hard about whether I go for a download album versus 'non digital' content.

So to summarise, a great album (might even grow to 5 stars over time..), but I would recommend going for the iTunes deluxe version rather than this!
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on 18 March 2010
Charlotte first came to my attention a few years back in the best ever film adaptation of Jane Eyre. The woman has such screen presence. I was delighted to find that she also followed in her father Serge's musical footsteps although any comparison between the two is unfair as Charlotte is a unique and talented artist in her own right. Do not be put off by her soft and breathy tones, her voice is as beautiful and as delicate as a butterfly's wings and she uses it to great effect on this fascinating and eclectic mix of songs. Her collaboration with Beck has produced a wonderful album, the best I've heard in a long time. I've been playing the album over and over, it's just so good. There's not a bad track on it which is more than you can say for a lot of albums. This limited edition CD is extremely good value as you get a DVD full of visual goodies, a 28 page booklet together with the CD. The album cover is a triple fold-out with some really cool pics of Charlotte. I urge you to buy this album. Vive Charlotte
P.S. Charlotte, if you ever read this please come and tour the UK. Merci.
P.P.S. I saw Charlotte live at the 02 Shepherd's Bush, London on 22nd June. Absolutely brilliant. Loved it. Thank you Charlotte
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on 28 January 2010
Some people are born lucky, with iconic parents from which they can extract and form their own charm and image. In some photos, Charlotte's profile is an uncanny silhouette echo of her father Serge, whilst she sports the same baggy jumpers, t-shirts and teasing hot pants Jane did in the late 60s. For this album, more so maybe than for the beautiful previous '5:55' , a lot of work has been done to explore Charlotte's vocal potential, which it has to be said, is unfortunately not astounding in the purely technical sense.
However, it is the slightly anxious, out-of-breath whispers we loved to hear from Jane a few years back, which perfectly suit the music prepared here for her by prolific music-master Beck. It is that fragility and complex moodiness which firmly establishes Charlotte as the new sensitive gamine of cross-channel chanson. Beck composed an appropriate musical masterpiece for Charlotte who in turn, has grasped sufficient maturity to act it out perfectly. A great combination where middle-American quirkiness meets Parisian café existentialism.
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