Charlotte Gainsbourg – Rest (Because Music)
File this in the 2017 “ones that got away” pile.
A brilliant insistent minor key of an album which takes on the vast shadow of Serge and comes through with something authentic and individual and (for anyone with any interest in Serge) very poignant.
The production by SebastiAn (with help from Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse and Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo of Daft Punk) is crucially sympathetic to Gainsbourg’s voice which is by no means a powerful instrument. Where it is most effective is in its hush its intimacy and this is how the production locates it. Plus lyrically there is the inspired decision to address not just the loss of her father but also her half sister Kate (after whom one of the songs is named).
The songs are shared between French and English (wisely most of the choruses are in English with the verses in French) as a nod to her joint heritage.
Overall there is the sense of an update of Jean Claude Vannier’s Serge productions (Melody Nelson in particular) with singing string sections and offbeat funk basslines. Dragging the material forward as opposed to looking back in time are the baroque keyboard patterns and especially an everpresent electronic dancefloor pulse.
The highpoint of the album the 6 minute ‘Deadly valentine’ features an infectious bubbling backbeat with top note strings. There is also the unmistakeable gesturing in the direction of ‘I feel love’ in the mid section with a similar ingenious switch from minor to major.
Elsewhere there is the very Melodyish ‘Lying with you’ a haunting reflection on death attachment loss amid swirling piano arpeggios and a devilish buzzing bass synth.
‘I’m a lie’ another wonderful intriguing tune wrapped in baroque keys and riding a filthy bass.
The affecting ‘Rest’. A broken voice. A childhood reverie. A whisper. The muted bass pulse.
The epic melancholic dancefloor sweep to ‘Sylvia says’.
An ambitious album on several fronts which is admirable in itself.
What’s more an album full of memorable and moving pop songs.