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Cat no. 5060525431524


<p><em>LP 1</em><br />
Ring-a-Ring O' Roses<br />
Lying with You<br />

<p>Deadly Valentine<br />
I'm a Lie<br />

<p><em>LP 2</em><br />
Sylvia Says<br />
Songbird in a Cage<br />
Dans vos airs</p>

<p>Les crocodiles<br />
Les oxalis</p>

<p>Sometimes it takes a personal tragedy to catalyse an artist’s practise, a crack in everything, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, that let’s the creative light in. Just such a traumatic fissure occurred in Charlotte Gainsbourg’s life in late 2013 with the sudden death in Paris of her half-sister, the fashion photographer Kate Barry. Reeling from the news and inevitably plunged into an extended period of grieving, the distressing event had transpired just as Charlotte was initiating activity on a new album, the successor to 2010’s IRM. Rather than put a total brake on creative proceedings, however, the anguish would slowly but inexorably find expression in the pages of Charlotte’s journal and thus, eventually, in the lyrics of the songs that she would write for Rest, her long-gestating but ultimately cathartic third studio album.<br />
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Previously reliant on collaborators to, as she puts it, “write my thoughts” – notably Jarvis Cocker and Air’s Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel on 2006’s 5.55 album, and Beck on the aforementioned IRM – Charlotte had already begun to explore the possibility of penning her own songs, initially decamping to an island off the Brittany coast with Kiwi songwriter Connan Mockasin, an auxiliary on Stage Whisper, who brought along his guitar to help develop her nascent ideas. “Songwriting had been so paralysing before, but this was quite liberating”, Charlotte recalls. “Connan didn’t care about what I was writing – it was all in French, which he didn’t understand. That gave me a bit of confidence. I was gradually getting a grip on what I felt I wanted to write about. And then my sister died…”<br />
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Being profoundly impacted by matters familial is hardly something new to Charlotte Gainsbourg, who first came to prominence in France as a young teenager, singing songs penned by her father, firstly on the controversial single ‘Lemon Incest’ and then the album (and accompanying film) Charlotte Forever. Serge Gainsbourg passed away when Charlotte was 19, and she, along with much of the French nation, felt the loss deeply and protractedly. The shadow of her father’s notoriety and immense artistic reputation, especially his celebrated work with her mother, Jane Birkin, offers a partial explanation for Charlotte’s previous reticence as a songwriter, although, as she readily acknowledges, her iconic bloodline has also been a way in for many of her collaborators. “Naturally, my parents’ style has inspired many of the musicians I’ve worked with. When I recorded with Beck, we talked about my father very often, and with Air it was the same”. Still, the Gainsbourg songwriting genes stubbornly refused to kick in. “I couldn’t ask my father about it, so I’d been asking every songwriter I met about their process, to try and find a method. I kept hearing ‘Oh, it all just comes together’ – the music and lyrics were just this magical thing that happened, somehow. But that’s not how it worked for me. Each time I tried to fit something like a poem that I liked into the music, it didn’t seem to work.” <br />
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Deliverance would arrive initially courtesy of Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, who provided the music for Rest’s poignant, modern lullaby-like title track, steering Charlotte toward a forensically focused approach to lyric writing. “Those were the first words that I actually sang on the album. I came in with all my bunches of lyrics… It was too much, really, and Guy-Man was saying, ‘you can’t say all that, you have to simplify it,’ and he reduced it to three words! It felt so innocent in a way, but it was exactly what I needed at that time”. In the end there are actually a few more than three words in the song, including an homage to ‘Walking in the Air’, from The Snowman fantasy animation (a Christmas childhood favourite of Charlotte’s), but the lyric is nothing if not succinct, resonating around the ambiguous meaning of the word ‘rest’, the first word inscribed on a headstone (Rest in Peace) and which, in French, means ‘stay’ – the word used to plead with a lover not to leave.<br />
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The album’s major production lynchpin would be French DJ, remixer and producer Sebastian Akchoté-Bozovic, aka SebastiAn, best known for his releases on French house label Ed Banger and for his production work for Frank Ocean. His background in electronic music accorded with Charlotte’s desire for a sound with a disquieting, mechanistic edge, inspired by Giorgio Moroder and, perhaps unsurprisingly for a revered, award-winning film actress, movie soundtracks, particularly Pino Donaggio’s score for Brian De Palma’s ’70s horror classic Carrie and Georges Delerue’s music for Jean-Luc Godard’s nouvelle vague masterpiece Le Mepris, as well as the chilly, unsettling ambience of films like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Hitchcock’s Rebecca. <br />
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Although their initial plans to work together were interrupted by her sister’s passing and a necessarily fractured subsequent transatlantic existence, the album would be recorded in France (A.S. Studio, Studio Palestine and Motorbass Studio), a Brooklyn basement and then at the legendary Electric Lady studio in Greenwich Village. Slowly freed from self doubt by the need to express her grief, and with SebastiAn as her trusted lieutenant, Charlotte began to abandon her habitual protective armour and write with renewed candour, singing in both French and English (often both in the same song) and belatedly embracing elements of her Franco-British parents’ distinctive, intimate musical style. “I wanted my voice to be quite present, the way that my father used to produce his albums”, she explains, “but with this electronic sound that would hopefully make it distinctive. The inspiration of my parents’ work was always there. SebastiAn wasn’t trying to avoid it: he was trying to make it our own, but with my father always in the back of his head”.<br />
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With her producer creating backing tracks over which Charlotte would pen words and melodies, the work ground on, not always easily. “There was a lot of back and forth, with long periods in New York just making new songs. Sometimes I felt like a debutante, trying out things, with a voice I wasn’t really in control of. I needed SebastiAn to say ‘try this’, or ‘this is a little too much like your mother…’” By summer 2016, however, the album was effectively completed; still Charlotte felt she needed to go further. “We kept adding songs, and I wanted to sing some of the older songs again to see if I could make them different. First times are really important to me, in life, and first takes in the studio can be magical… but the record ended up as a real mishmash of first takes, last takes… I don’t have a rule, but I needed time to be certain. Ultimately, it took me four years to get to a place I was really sure of.”<br />
<br />
The eleven essays on Rest are nothing if not sure-footed, proffering a compelling fusion of gleaming, string-emblazoned modern electro-pop and cinematically textured avant-chanson – their magical music box melodies kissed by bruised, introspective, occasionally disquieting lyrics. The album opens with the nursery rhyme enchantment of ‘Ring a Ring a Roses’, a hazy mosaic of nostalgic childhood snapshots – the verses delivered in intimately captured French, the instantly infectious chorus in coolly clipped English – and ends with the electro-disco-flavoured ‘Les Oxalis’ (named after the eponymous woodland flower). “Those two songs were always the bookends of the album”, Charlotte explains. The latter’s rhythmic energy cuts against the lyric, describing a lachrymose promenade through a cemetery. “I remember SebastiAn asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to say against that rhythm?’ But that’s how this album made sense to me, in the contradiction between things, with the music taking you somewhere and the words going the opposite way”.<br />
<br />
It’s a potent dichotomy that permeates much of Rest, from ‘Lying With You’, whose busy drums and angular synths frame a lyric about Serge Gainsbourg’s death (“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. I wanted to talk about the crudity of this”, explains Charlotte), to the frank, self-examining ‘I’m a Lie’ (“…about not knowing if you’re able to collapse or fly. It’s something that I’m always wrestling with”), and the wonderfully Giorgio Moroder-esque ‘Deadly Valentine’, whose lyrics, essentially a string of uncannily delivered wedding vows, play out against a motorik Euro-disco beat and soaring strings. “SebastiAn’s original backing track haunted me, it had that sense of being a little tortured, a little bit horror movie”, says Charlotte, clarifying her approach to the song. “The idea of the album was to go into those disquieting places: that was the musical blueprint. Sometimes we took something that sounded like it came from a dated French film and mixed it with another, more grandiose electronic theme and it created something new – the mix was always interesting.”<br />
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Another essay, ‘Songbird in a Cage’, was penned for Charlotte by Sir Paul McCartney, no less. “We had a very nice lunch about six-and-a-half years ago”, she recalls. “I couldn’t believe that I was actually sitting next to him. I told him that if he ever had a song for me it would be a dream come true. A few weeks later he sent this track. It was a demo. I didn’t know what to do with it, because I wanted it to be part of the album. We had to reinvent it. Paul very sweetly came to Electric Lady. He did a bit of piano, some bass, a bit of guitar. It was incredible, just to see him work”. <br />
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Other collaborators on the album include Owen Pallet (Arcade Fire, Caribou), whose lush string arrangements provide swooning, almost romantic counterpoint to the songs’ underlying kinetic pulse, French keyboard maestro Emile Sorin (Forever Pavot) and the aforementioned Connan Mockasin. The Grammy Award-winning Tom Elmhirst (David Bowie, Jamie XX, Adele) mixed the album and proved crucial in blending its disparate components into an undeniable whole while being diligently attuned to Charlotte’s artistic vision. “I think Tom gradually understood that mixing the album was going to be a very, very long process with me”, she admits. “I hope I didn’t torture him too much. He was so helpful, and a shoulder I could rely on”.<br />
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The aides-de-camp may have played their role on Rest, but it remains undeniably the work of a singular artist, one who has explored her personal darkness in pursuit of a sense of purpose and a place of resolution, purging herself of creative shyness and timidity in the process. The album was almost christened Take One, as if it were a complete artistic tabula rasa, or another of those ‘first times’ that Charlotte readily admits to being obsessed with. “With each album I’ve made, it’s as if it were the first”, she clarifies. “There was the album with my father, which was the very first time, then the album with Air, which was the first time without him, and then with Beck it was the first time being in America. 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”.</p>

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