A restless return from Charlotte Gainsbourg

Rating: 4/5

After 7 years of silence, French-British singer and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg confidently comes back with her 5th album, Rest ­– a powerful and intimate ode to life, death and the grief that comes in between.

It is definitely the strength with which Gainsbourg unravels her personal drama of the deaths of her half-sister and father that defines this work: it is lyrical and angry, subtle and rough, dark and hopeful, and consistently, brutally honest.

Her voice – both literally and figuratively – sounds better than ever. High-pitched, gentle, unearthly, it resonates with elements of 70’s synthetic pop and alternative electronic indie to create this tangible feeling the album is soaked in. The occasional introduction of acoustic guitar, strings or other orchestral parts add maturity and content. The juxtaposition of English and French lyrics gives edge and uneasiness.

This beautifully crafted sound is a result of Gainsbourg’s work with French electronic music artist SebastiAn, who produced the album and wrote most of the music, apart from ‘Rest’, written and produced by Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, and ‘Songbird in a Cage’, with words and music by Paul McCartney as well as other contributors.

It is not unusual for Gainsbourg to work with other artists, her previous albums including collaborations with Beck in IRM (2009), and with Jarvis Cocker and others in 5:55 (2006). Her creative signature is audible through each of them, yet seems even clearer in Rest, potentially due to the significance of the themes explored through the lyrics that, unlike in other work, she mostly wrote herself.

The album balances perfectly between uniformity and diversity, from the groovy bass line in ‘Sylvia Says’ (lyrics of which are based on Sylvia Plath’s texts), to the distant piano at the beginning of the melancholic ‘Kate’. The rhythm of ‘Deadly Valentine’ sounds violent and inspiring, while ‘Rest’, possibly the most important track on the album, offers smooth content.

Rest is restless, and it sounds like a consolation. But what stands out in each song, each beat of the strong, clear electronic rhythms is the freedom that comes with a release of a strong emotion. This album is exactly that.

Image: Sonic PR

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