As with her acting, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s music tends towards emotional minimalism. Her last album made for pleasant listening but carried little weight; certainly not enough to put any strain on the legs of a coffee table. IRM is thankfully a much less anaemic affair, and though it may be useless to scramble for any personal meaning in this collection (the majority of which is penned musically and lyrically by her partner in this endeavour, Beck), she seems to be enjoying herself much more here, and this proves infectious.
From the start of opener Master’s Hand, it is clear that the masterful hand of Beck has been hard at work; techno-tribal percussion the first of many Beckisms in this album’s production. Second track IRM, the french for an MRI scan, has a junkyard punk feel, illustrating the abrasive mechanisms of the machine. Inspired by the sounds heard when scanned for a brain haemorrhage, Gainsbourg is more interested in the limitations of the practice than meditating on life and death: “Analyse EKG, can you see a memory?”. Heaven Can Wait combines elements of french chanson with the drive of David Bowies’s glam rock, yet results in something thoroughly contemporary. The lush blues of Dandelion, however, make it something of an understated triumph, strings and whispers of brass approach and recede like some imagined orchestra.
There are still a few songs which lack thrust, but for the most part Gainsbourg has created something that won’t appeal to everyone who frequents Starbucks — and that is a good thing.