Label: Because Music Release date: 25/01/10 Website: She’s had a life hasn’t she? Old Charlotte Gainsbourg. Finding herself aged twelve thrust into the limelight on the painfully awkward 1984 duet with her father Serge ‘Lemon Incest’. Gainsbourg’s belated return to the music biz in the mid noughties occurred in the midst of her skyrocketing critically acclaimed acting career. Now onto album three Gainsbourg returns after bouncing back from a life threatening brain haemorrhage. As with most actor/musicians there is always going to be an element of doubt within reviewer’s minds, more or less working on the premise that you can’t be good at both singing and acting, can you? My own exposure to Gainsbourg on screen is pretty limited, she apparently was in Todd Haynes’ brilliant I’m Not There, but I can’t recall her performance in that film leaving any kind of impact. And then there was Lars Van Trier’s Antichrist, which to me seemed nothing more than a little under two hours of unpleasant torture porn masquerading as high class cinematic art. It is the inconsistent, far out Van Trier influence which provides the polarity between dreams and nightmares that is strongly evident throughout the album. Gainsbourg is able to accentuate her own personal experience of fear, with an escape to a heavenly malevolent world of fantasy. IRM (titled after the medical brain scanner) opens with ‘Master’s Hand’, a trembly piece powered by South East Asian percussion; Gainsbourg’s nervy vocals recall the seductive salutations of a nervous young lover. The title track which follows is really quite eerie, with Beck, the producer of this record, somehow managing to recreate the sounds of a MRI machine. You can hear heart monitors and the slow retraction of a human being enveloped inside the shell “Take a picture what’s inside / Ghost imaging my mind”. Beck’s production allows us to explore the inner workings of Gainsbourg’s soul, as an arranger he is able to add texture, creating fresh sounds that add to the drama. From the skittish out of tune ukulele on ‘Greenwich Mean Time’ which recalls the jerky rhythms found on Blur’s Think Tank to the skeletal tones of ‘Time of Assassins’, where acoustic sensitivity meets the hushed whisper of Gainsbourg’s vocal. ‘Le Chat du Café des Artistes’ is a beautifully breathy, sensual cover version of the song written by famed Canadian songwriter Jean-Pierre Ferland, from the classic album Jaune. If you take this album to represent a journey of a patient undergoing the diagnosis, then treatment and finally the recovery from a serious head injury. The other song sung entirely in French ‘Voyage’ is the train trip powered by a new lease of life. At the other end of the spectrum ‘In the End’ poses questions about mortality, which contrasts with the intriguing Beck duet ‘Heaven Can Wait’? Sure there is some filler on this album, and some tracks that just don’t fit the mood (the ballsy rock of ‘Trick Pony’ for example) but unarguably Gainsbourg and Beck have gelled together and released an album full of life, an album that goes far beyond just being a jumble of disconnected tracks. Rating: 7/10