Charlotte Gainsbourg’s first proper album since 2010, the upcoming Rest, doesn’t actually represent her first new music in that time—her 2011 set Stage Whisper included unreleased studio material from her sessions with Beck—but its first single builds enigmatically and beguilingly on the way her previous album, IRM, found romance in the void. “Rest” is also, fittingly, the first new Gainsbourg music since she starred in Lars Von Trier’s sensation-causing, sex-depicting 2013 film Nymphomaniac, for which she, with Beck again, breathily covered “Hey Joe.” There were hints of dance-tinged electro-pop on Stage Whisper numbers like “Terrible Angels” and “Paradisco,” so it makes sense that for this song she worked with Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo.
As with Beck, Gainsbourg and Homem-Christo turn out to be stunningly complementary matches. “Rest,” which the two co-wrote and co-produced, doesn’t bring the club thump of French house to Gainsbourg’s arty eclecticism, so much as turn a robot-disco banger inside out to suit Gainsbourg’s ghostly preoccupations. The title phrase, it has been noted, doesn’t only have to refer to a quick breather or nap—it’s also the first word in “Rest in Peace,” and in French it means “stay.” Gainsbourg’s fluttery whisper vacillates between French and English here, entreating unspecified souls to stay while drawing allusions to a song from the 1982 animated film The Snowman, according to a press release (“We’re walking in the air,” she whispers, quoting a song from the soundtrack). That’s set to a muted, laid-back electronic accompaniment that gorgeously befits a more typical idea of “rest,” with a muffled low-end pulse and lithe bass line set amid sparse, elegiac synth-plinks. Gainsbourg’s other Rest collaborators range from Paul McCartney to Owen Pallett, and she’ll be in theaters next month in a mystery horror film called, what else, The Snowman. Her “dead sexy” vision, as a colleague once put it, remains intoxicatingly her own. – Pitchfork