woensdag 4 december 2013

Stage whisper. Charlotte Gainsbourg

For a few days in a row we are going to look at recent releases from the great of past years. Stage whisper, although only about two year old is another, because of that fact.

Another sibling of Jane Birkin makes it to this blog this year. After Lou Doillon, Charlotte's stepsister, (click here), Stage whisper deserves attention. Although the album was released in December 2011, I opt to write about it, as I only got to know the album recently and really, really like. My introduction to Charlotte Gainsbourg was with the album 5:55, she made in 2006 with Air. The album that evoked the mood and sound of 'Moon safari' so brilliantly and to my mind surpassed it easily. After the album 'IRM' (2009), her collaboration with Beck, Gainsbourg released Stage whisper, a double album with a studio and a live side, again in collaboration with Beck.

Side A is the studio album. The album kicks of with a harsh dance beat where Gainsbourg's thin voice literally battles it out with the background. She comes out winning, of course. This is her album after all. It is a battle none the same. Voice and "band" could be seen as two loose entities. The same goes for 'Paradisco', one of the singles taken from Stage whisper. The singing might well belong to another song, a chanson of a sweet sounding French singer. At the same time the combination works. Guitars give the songs an edge of indie rock, making the combination even more intriguing.

The combination of traditional melody and experimental accompaniment is another aspect that I truly like about Stage whisper. Listening to 'All the rain' one hears a seemingly simple melody, behind which a lot is going on. Sounds, snippets of playing, instruments fading in and out, together making up a song that is a pleasure to listen to. 'White telephone' has a baroque sound, violins or horns popping up, giving the song a very stately appearance.

The music of Charlotte Gainsbourg is not warm. It remains cool, somewhat aloof, but at the same time intriguing and interesting. There's a mix, that makes her stand out among the competition. From 5:55, the clean pop dance influenced album with Air, she has made a step forward since into more experimental music, without losing herself in the process.

Disc 2 is a live album. What I was interested in most, was to find out whether Gainsbourg would stand up to everything happening around her. In 'IRM' I very much doubted whether that would happen. On 'Set myself on fire' she sounds strained, but also a rock star. Charlotte Gainsburg is in control of the song and starring the show. Her songs come alive on stage. A firm drummer, different keyboard sounds and a live guitarist, who helps making the songs stand out in all the right places. The mechanical sound of the records makes room for live music. The natural way in which the busy 'Set myself on fire' blends into the slow and moody 'Jamais' is impressive. The tempo changes, the sound unwinds and 'Jamais'' main melody appears from the "noise". At the same time Gainsbourg finds her live voice and doesn't look back in the rest of the set.

Both sides of Stage whisper together make for an excellent album. Everyone who likes to explore just a little behind the regular pop song, but still likes to find something of it in more experimental music, may completely find things to his or her liking on Stage whisper. In the studio and live.


You can listen to 'Paradisco' here.

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