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Charlotte Gainsbourg: Stage Whisper

 Two albums into her adult recording career is probably a bit early for a Best Of to be compiled, so the Charlotte Gainsbourg-hungry Xmas stocking is being fed by a live album. But the twist is that it’s half of a 2CD set. Calling this a double album though is a stretch, as the non-live CD includes seven tracks and runs to just over 25 minutes.
 
The live album, recorded during her 2010 tour, plucks five tracks apiece from 5.55 and IRM and adds a cover of Dylan’s 'Just Like A Woman'. The IRM cuts lose the brittleness of their Beck-helmed studio counterparts; 'Heaven Can Wait' and 'Voyage' win out from the reconfiguring. As it was with the live shows, 5.55’s 'The Songs That We Sing' and 'Jamais' are the highlights. The quietly intimate 'Just Like A Woman' sympathetically showcases Gainsbourg's voice which, otherwise, is mixed right back.
 
The studio cuts comprise four Beck off-cuts from the IRM sessions, and one collaboration each with Noah and the Whale, Connan Mockasin and Conor O’Brien (Villagers). Of the Beck tracks, the glam stomp of 'Terrible Angels' (already issued as part of a trailer EP) and the minor-key 'All the Rain' could have fit snugly on IRM. 'Paradisco' is a sweetly 80s electro-dancer which Beck has played live and reconfigured for Gainsbourg as a distant cousin of Desireless's 'Voyage Voyage'. It, and the fractured 'White Telephone', would have brought a welcome texture to IRM. 'Got To Let Go', the Noah and the Whale song, is alright while Moccasin’s 'Out Of Touch' sounds unfinished, with Gainsbourg's voice tailing off into nothing at the end of each verse. Conor O’Brien’s 'Memoir' (previously issued as a Record Store Day single) deviates from the electro template and is all the better for it. “I remember you undressing as I set myself on fire, the funeral was quick as I lay lifeless on your pyre” she sings.
 
What next? Are the non-Beck track dry runs for the next album? The concert stuff might work as a DVD, but the way her voice is mixed acknowledges that it’s not the best thing to focus on, undercutting the idea of a Charlotte Gainsbourg live album. Hearing her away from actually being at a show reveals she needs studio production. 'Memoir', 'Paradisco', 'Terrible Angels' and 'White Telephone' are great, but Stage Whisper is best viewed as stopgap.
 
Kieron Tyler
 
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