Love Happening

Charlotte & Magon

Independent release, 2008

http://www.charlottemagon.com

REVIEW BY: Giselle Nguyen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/29/2009

Countless couples have made music together before. Some are more discreet than others (think Meg and Jack White, who masqueraded as siblings for how long?); some sing their emotions shamelessly from the rooftops (Sonny and Cher, anyone?); some, like Brooklyn electro-punks Matt & Kim, use their love to birth a youthful energy that every hipster teen can relate to.

Joining these ranks is duo Charlotte & Magon, the former a Frenchwoman and the latter an Israeli man. They chatted online for two years before meeting in the flesh in March 2008 to record an album together – and, as the story goes, fell hopelessly in love in the process. That album, Love Happening, is a perfect reflection of their feelings for each other, but it’s sometimes so overly emotional that it leaves the listener feeling a little voyeuristic.

The album opens with the rumble of waves before drifting into the euphoria of “Vagalam,” where Charlotte introduces herself by murmuring in a mid-range sigh about “making love in the sand” while her lover Magon’s “hair shines in the sun.” In the same vein as French ambient pioneers Air, the song – and the album as a whole – relies on a subtle electronic zephyr to carry it forth which, when coupled with nbtc__dv_250 Charlotte’s waif-like vocals, produces a gorgeous atmospheric calm. That is, until Magon’s voice joins the scene, sonorously whispering in a seductive tone: “The smell of your feet is invading me.”

Now, there is no boundary in art. People are permitted to express what they want, as they want – but there’s something about listening to an urgent, almost animalistic ode to foot fetishism that is incredibly unsettling, teetering on the edge of an accidental peepshow. Put it this way: looking at a couple in love is heartwarming and sweet, but walking in on the same couple in a compromising position is awkward, even though the act is obviously a manifestation of their love. 

When sex is not so explicitly mentioned, however, the lyrical blends more subtly and tastefully into the musical and has a much more poignant effect. Introducing elements such as flute and synthesizer, Charlotte & Magon experiment with different types of vocal delivery, from whispered spoken word to heavily layered fifth progressions. Their singing voices work quite well together (her wispy alto and his gently shaking tenor). And if you find yourself thinking you’ve heard this music before, you have; Serge Gainsbourg pioneered this exact style of atmospheric chanson years ago, right down to the heavy sexual themes. In this sense, the French influence in the music and lyrics is almost overwhelming, but there’s much less of a nod to Israeli musical styles – a real disappointment as it would have been fascinating to hear more on how the meeting of two cultures emotionally would transpire musically.

With the continuing theme of the ocean and its vast nature (much like the nature of love, actually), Love Happening rolls just as recklessly as the sea. It starts with the calm arousal of “Vagalam,” slides into the electric sexuality of “Howard,” turns the lights out with the seductive “Waves,” becomes a subtle lullaby with “I Love You, You Are My Friend,” and bows out humbly with the piano echo of “Sounds Like An Ending.” Like the ocean, it lurches and lulls unexpectedly. The music is calm yet frenetically charged, atmospherically vast and touching.

Love Happening is just what its title suggests: the lushly atmospheric sound of two people entangled in each other, wrapped up in the delicious sensation of discovering what it means to fall in love. The sounds are sweepingly grand and the ideas formidable, and the fact that Charlotte and Magon discovered their passion for one another while making this album makes the emotions rampant in the music – however excessive – all the more credible.

Rating: B-

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