Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Imogen Heap : "Sparks"

It's been five years since her last album, so the first that catches my ear is  voice is lower and sounds like she has been smoking. She eventually proves you can back up there as the song swells. The problem she has been facing since she released 2005 "Speak For Yourself" is the bar has been set incredibly high. I know some people who prefer her work with Frou Frou, so I don't feel so bad about being stuck on that album.

She drifts on a lazy cloud of electronic bleeps and blips, not unlike the backing of "Speak For Yourself" and much safer than the subsequent follow up "Eclipse". The tight ethereal harmonies are here, but she is trying to no appear as dependent on them, leaving the song "Entanglement" to work better for her than the hushed tones of the albums opener.

Her style still works even though this kinda of pop has been hi-jacked by the likes of St Vincent and Zola Jesus. Those two singers might not be able to pull of the rather Basia styled gymnastics on a song like "the Listening Chair" that feels like a children's song by way of Peter Gabriel.. The Oriental intervals of the "Cycle Song" sound more organic and really wears the Kate Bush influence on it's sleeve. While playful it doesn't really feel like it is more than an interlude.

The collaboration with deadmau5 is less edm infused than I expected for this coupling. He melodies flip back and forth in the manner I enjoy from her as the backing track just simmers .While a good song this dosen't work as well as the song with Vishal-Shekhar.

 She does darken up and become more introspective on "Lifeline". The hook at the chorus on this one is very strong and helps propel the song. To call this pop music doesn't feel accurate as most of the songs have to fine a coating of quirk to them for radio play, nor can I hear them sitting against Kesha. The spoken word intro to "Neglected Space" isn't among my favorite moments, angelic melodies do offer a call and response, but this and the building synth line are too little too late almost.

One thing I really like about this album is how it infuses world music into it. This allows her to branch her singing out into all kinds of exotic intervals not commonly used in western music.Are also songs like "Me the Machine" that remind me of 80's new wave.One of my favorite songs on the album is the simple , but very dancey "Run-Time".This does look back into the brand of edm most influenced by the 80's .

Despite it's title "the Beast" has a lot of tender ambiance to it."Xizi She Knows" jumps back into the quirky dance pop she is known, lyrical smart as most of the album is. The themes seem to use technology as a metaphor for a breakdown in relationships.The album closes with the dreamily sedate "Propeller Seeds" that dips its toes in subtle jazz inflection bathed in edm. This album is a step in the right direction for her, even if it's not well... you know. I'll give it a 9.5.

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