Musings of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s ‘IRM’

One of my professors and I were discussing the positives and negatives of fluency in more than one language.  The obvious positives were that one had the ability to converse with people of a culture different from their own.  The odd thing that he put forward was that there were negatives to speaking more than one language.

He spoke his native Greek, and was fluent in English, Italian, and a few others, if I remember correctly; however, he argued that once you learn to speak other languages you lose the ability to make your own beautiful as you grapple with colloquial terms and conjugations within each, resulting in the constant struggle to adequately say what you mean.

I found this interesting, but the opposite of what I saw.  The more languages surely meant the more ways to express oneself.  I was reminded of this debate I had when I began to listen to Charlotte Gainsbourg, a French actress/singer song writer.

A type of indie folk album with a number of different influences thrown in, including tribal drumming and orchestral arrangements, IRM finds itself as an interesting and difficult album to describe.

With lyrics in both English and French, Gainsbourg’s voice has an airy dissonance and gentle ringing as she almost whispers over the backings.  One would liken IRM to a less electronic version of Imogen Heap, but with more intricate layering of instruments.

The most appealing element of the album is the sheer variety of styles in each track.  Opening and closing tracks “Master’s Hands” and “Looking Glass Blues” have deep drumming and ominous feels, while the heart of the album has folk heavy tracks such as “Me and Jane Doe” and “Time of Assassins”, rounded off with “Greenwich Mean Time”, a Euro influenced electronic track.

Gainsbourg presents an obvious and ominous message that is both blunt and nonsensical by intermingling French and English languages and indie and folk genres.  Perhaps the gentle nature of the tracks leads to a bit of boredom and a sense of detachment of the part of the vocalist, but perhaps that is the struggle to find what one wants to say my professor was referring to.

IRM will inevitably provoke a lot of questions and then set your mind at rest as Gainsbourg searches for the best way to make you understand what is going on in her mind.

RYIL – The Bird and The Bee, Imogen Heap


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