Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., April 2, 2010
Charlotte GainsbourgIRM (Elektra)
For most of us, being trapped inside the casket tunnel of an MRI tube, with its starkly ominous overtones of fleshly imperfection soundtracked by what sounds like an Einstürzende Neubauten bootleg, is, at best, an unnervingly intimate meet and greet with our own mortality. At worst, it's an elegantly orchestrated precursor to oblivion. For Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of louche icon Serge and gamine siren Jane Birkin, the series of MRIs ("imagerie par résonance magnétique" in French, hence the album title) that followed the actress/singer's near-fatal 2007 waterskiing accident resulted in her warmest, most life-affirming work yet. Collaborated upon with Beck, IRM yields a welter of musical styles ranging from the pulsating rhythms of the claustrophobic title track to the Persian percussions of "Voyage" and the Kills-y "Trick Pony." IRM couldn't be more removed from 2006's spare, Air-y 5:55, but Gainsbourg's no one if not her father's daughter, and those genetic Gitanes are obvious on the dark and lovely "Le Chat du Café des Artistes" and jaunty "Dandelion." Ultimately it's Gainsbourg's voice – a heady melange of tussled bedclothes whisperings and near-dead sexy murmurs – that lifts both her life and art from beneath the shade of her mythic paterfamilias.