I am yet to meet anyone who likes going for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan. You know what I’m talking about—you are made to lie down in a claustrophobic pod and hear strange clanging noises, while your head is scanned. In fact, I’ve heard of people who’ve insisted on being administered general anaesthesia before lying in an MRI scanner. So, I was quite surprised when I found out what Charlotte Gainsbourg, the Anglo-French singer and actress, had called her new album. It’s called IRM and it means MRI in French.
I was even more surprised when I heard an interview with her where she said she has had several MRIs and actually enjoyed them a lot, getting a few done when they weren’t really required as well. Gainsbourg has fabulous genes—her father, Serge, a legendary French singer, actor and director, enjoyed a godlike status in France, and her mother, Jane Birkin is the well-known British actress. The several MRI scans that Gainsbourg had to undergo had possibly to do with a water skiing accident that she was in after which she suffered several internal haemorrhages of the head.
After a successful brain surgery in 2007 and a couple of new movies, including the dark, Antichrist (in which she acts as a mother who mutilates her genitals), she recorded IRM, which is produced by Los Angeles musician Beck who has also played and sung on the album. The 13 songs (one is called IRM) are varied. Some of them have a definite retro French feel, while the others are very modern. Dandelion, for instance has the electro-folk feel of a Dylan album. On IRM, the title track, the clanging noise of an MRI scan influences the beat that Beck uses to arrange the music. On Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes, she could seem to sound like the late Gainsbourg Sr.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is better known for her films (she’s 38 and has been acting since she was 13). She was 13 when she first debuted in music, doing a song called Lemon Incest with her father. The video for the song was considered vaguely paedophilic by some critics who referred to the scene of a half-naked Gainsbourg lying on a bed with his daughter.
Charlotte has done more than two dozen films but just three albums, including her latest, IRM. Her first, Charlotte For Ever, was released when she was 15 and the second one, 5:55, came out 20 years later in 2006 and had most of its songs written by Britpop star, Jarvis Cocker. I haven’t heard it but am trying to lay my hands on it.
I’ve heard my share of Beck’s albums and I really like just one, 1996’s Odelay, which has a delightfully messy tangle of sounds that you can trace to genres as disparate as electro, garage rock, rap and even folk. I’ve always felt Beck had talent but little, in terms of his released music, to show for it.
Now, I think he’s gone and done that. His work on IRM seems to even surpass Odelay. IRM, like Odelay, is a mélange of different kinds of music—a very pleasurably messed up blend of genres, old, new and futuristic. It’s a fine album to discover Gainsbourg by and rediscover Beck.
Neon Indian are not just a band from Austin, Texas who play fuzzy but extremely likeable electro-pop but a multimedia act that began by combining music and video into short films.
Last year, the band released its first album, Psychic Chasms, which I managed to finally listen to last week. The 12 songs on the debut album have a retro (1980s) style electro sound to them and the song that stands out on the album (and not just because of the name) is Should Have Taken Acid With You. It’s got a nice haunting beat and a low-fi, synthesizer-laden electronic interference that’s rather pleasing really. Each one of the dozen songs on Psychic Chasms has a slightly blurred, out-of-focus feel, the sound rounded and not angular, relaxed and laid back. It’s the kind of psychedelic music that’s best heard lying down with your head a bit blurred, like the music. Try it after getting up late on a Sunday morning.
(Sanjoy Narayan tweets at www.twitter.com/argus48)
Three to Tango:
- Mlle. Chatte: Lovelorn lyrics from a mysterious American singer, Harlan T. Bobo, who has a new album out soon.
- Jaga Jazzist: This band fuses jazz and electronica in a way that even if you don’t like the genres you end up enjoying the fusion.
- Amblin Alps (remix): Remember Yeasayer? Well, this is a nice remix of a track from their new album.