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Coachella, beyond the main stage: Charlotte Gainsbourg's Beck-enhanced musical breakout

April 14, 2010 |  4:33 pm

COACHELLA COUNTDOWN: In the days leading up to the three-day Indio fest that begins Friday, Pop & Hiss gives you the reasons to arrive before the headliners.


Charlotte Gainsbourg

From: Paris

Reason to care: What a difference a little Beck makes. On her third album, "IRM," Gainsbourg teamed with Silver Lake's eccentric pop craftsman, resulting in an album that frames Gainsbourg's stylishly wispy vocals with ornately adventurous studio orchestrations. "Trick Pony" rides a big-beat stomp into the sunset with Western guitars and vintage harmonies. "Greenwich Mean Time" walks the line between spooky and playful, fashioning a cut-and-paste groove out of all sorts of undefinable electronic and organic sounds, all while still managing to find a chorus fit for the most hip of underground lounges. Sunday afternoon, Gainsbourg is set to be backed by a five-piece, and one could probably expect a surprise appearance from a certain local hero. 

Listen: There's a dark undercurrent to Gainsbourg's "IRM," which is most readily apparent on the title track. The cut was made available for a free download on her official site, and you can stream it below. Inspired by the singer's brain hemorrhage following a water skiing accident, the song turns the ambient drone of an MRI machine into a warmly haunting exploration of one's psyche. 

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM

Fun fact: The daughter of artists Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Charlotte's music career began with a bit of controversy. Her introduction to the pop world was via a song recorded with her father entitled "Lemon Incest," a provocative title and pairing heightened by the fact that Charlotte was a tween at the time. 

Next: Gainsbourg's all-too-brief tour of North America means the high-priced party in the desert is the artist's only Los Angeles date currently on the docket. There's no doubt that, say, the exquisite Park West in Chicago, would provide a better setting for Gainsbourg's delicately chic, piano-heavy arrangements. Let's hope she's back with a surprise late-summer date at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre before her upcoming foreign drama, "The Tree," makes its way to U.S. art houses.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Willy Vanderperre / Because Music


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