Monday, 7 June 2010

The Time of the Assassins

Here’s a great Charlotte Gainsbourg video for the song Time of the Assassins, from her recent LP IRM. It seems to capture the dreamlike state far more effectively, with its feeling of airy drift and sudden intense focus on particular, isolated detail (caterpillar and spider’s web in this case) than the contrived surrealism and heavily underlined symbolism often found in films. The low-gravity leaps down the curve of the hill in particular raise what small fragments of my own dreams I remember to the surface. Gainsbourg’s collaborators seem drawn to the dreamlike when working with her, whether in photography, film or music. Her voice has that hushed, introspective quality which makes it sound like she’s singing to herself, and her face and bearing often suggest that she’s lost in her own private reveries. Air and Jarvis Cocker seemed to capture this feel particularly well on the first LP, 5.55, the title track of which outlines those borderlands of heightened sensitivity between sleep and wakefulness. Overall, I prefer that LP to IRM, for the very reason that it does have that dreamy sound, so characteristic of Air. The melody, if not the production, of Time of the Assassins would fit in very well on the first LP, and suggests that Gainsbourg asserts her musical personality in equal measure to her heavyweight producers. In her films, she also tends to play characters lost in their own inner worlds, off at a slight angle to consensus reality. This has been the case from The Cement Garden, through Lemming and on to Antichrist (which finds her in the woods again), and is also implied in the titles of The Science of Sleep and I’m Not There.

The transition from the paved over, manufactured environment of in which the car is king to the natural world which looks very much like it could be in the area of Big Sur, near the Pacific Coast Highway (I’m going solely by movie and Beat literature based knowledge here) is reminiscent of the feel of parts of the new Liars LP Sisterworld, the panoramic website for which depicts them wandering dishevelled and bewildered through forest and along shore in the tatters of their work clothes. The song The Overachievers contains the lines ‘we gave up on our jobs/and bought back all our time/to spend it walking in the forest’. Both this and The Time of the Assassins video suggest a blinking, bedazzled awakening from a long dream of consumption and materialistic fulfillment in artificial worlds. Charlotte ends up gazing out to sea like Jack Kerouac at the end of his book Big Sur. Jack futilely attempts to capture the sound of the breakers in prose, and it is such a soothing nonsense mantra which you can imagine filling her head, clearing it of all extraneous and equally meaningless noise.

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