Charlotte Gainsbourg overhauls grief in Rest

RestWhether it’s learning to speak in tongues, deft nursery rhyme interpolations, or the wrath of Dasein underpinning deathly encounters that offset the sweetness of youth, Charlotte Gainsbourg continues to molt, molding grief on her latest album, Rest. Markedly, it’s been 7 years since IRM, which was written and produced by Beck. No stranger to colossal collaborations with artists such as Air, Jarvis Cocker and Nigel Godrich, this time Gainsbourg teams up with French producers, Guy-Manuel de Homem Christo and SebastiAn (Frank Ocean, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys). None other than Sir Paul McCartney wrote “Songbird in a Cage” especially for Gainsbourg, and Homem-Christo is credited with the title track. The prolific Owen Pallet offers up more cinematic string arrangements as well.

Rest marks the first album where the French composer penned all the lyrics, previously having exchanged words with Cocker, Air, and Beck on 5:55 and IRM: “This time it felt like flying on my own. I knew I needed the right collaborator, and SebastiAn was always there, but all the same, this time the album is really mine.” The content baits the listener into the crosshairs of sleep paralysis, abduction and ultimately, deliverance from such a cataclysmic nightmare. Rest grapples with the tragedy of her father, Serge Gainsbourg’s heart attack in 1991, and her half-sister, Kate Barry’s presumed suicide in 2013, having fallen from a window.

Charlotte succeeds lost life with the crude knowledge of “not knowing if you’re able to collapse or fly” in “Lying With You”—the lyrics holding plenty of water: “Like everyone who’s gone through this, you have to deal with the memory of someone who is still alive in your head, and the way you’ve seen them dead.” Despite the first-hand experience with personal loss, suffocating grief, and near-death head trauma in the summer of 2007, Rest counterbalances paralysis with the sliding friction of motorik Euro-disco beats and rhythmic finesse (i.e. two repulsing magnets). The album title itself possesses irony—“Reste” meaning, 'stay' in French.

In light of darkness, coos of intimate French poetry and self-actualization pervade the record with succinct, darkly grooves and futuristic melodies, invading the mind with imposing introspection. “Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses” launches the album into a grim and forlorn delivery of avant-chanson with infectious grooves. The Giorgio Moroder-esque “Deadly Valentine” gives way for a more playful and funkier promenade, equipped with disquieting lyrics that fixate on wedding vows. “Songbird in a Cage” is similarly funky with Bowie’s “Fame” overtones, while “I’m a Lie” is decidedly carnivalesque. The closer, “Les Oxalis,” erupts into an alphabetical explosion by the very end (secret track), operating as a bookend to “Ring-A-Ring O’ Roses.”

Gainsbourg maintains a fervid and uncommon ability to enchant and capture her audience in yet another spellbinding and, ripe for the ages. It’s hard to watch a narrative of afflicting pain and suffering unfold in lieu of a more pleasant reality, but somehow Gainsbourg seizes the opportunity to carve out peace in the shape of grief.

Release: 17th November 2017, BECAUSE

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