Heap “Sparks†electronic music

By Jake Saunder

The majority of albums released by Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap can be described as ambient electronica, compositions of synthetically orchestrated, dream-like pop sounds.

Heap’s fourth album, “Sparks,” was recently pushed to April, but many of the songs on the forthcoming album are already available as singles — she has released seven since the success of her third album, “Eclipse,” which garnered her Grammies in the Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical category. Heap layers her own vocal tracks through a vocoder, which synthetically reproduces vocal arrangements. The technology is used in many of her popular songs, including “Hide and Seek” from her 2005 album “Speak for Yourself.”

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The new album opens with the song “You Know Where to Find Me.” This composition exhibits her classical piano stylings, which blend into the ominous ambiance of synthetic tones. The song flaunts her unique vocal pattern. The voice, rather poetic, easily finds her tenor scales into falsetto.

By her fifth track, “Telemiscommunications,” she couples with recording artist Deadmau5 to create a surrealist ambiance, a truly refined and robust sound. She climbs effortlessly into falsetto pitches and falls into her own layered voice comfortably. The songs generally possess a floating and spritely theme.

The sixth track, “Lifeline,” energizes where the previous tracks embellish the ambiance. The piano reasserts itself and glimmers like the moonbeams that impact across the canvass of seas as the sound of harp strings flicker in a ripple effect. It is an effervescent track, bubbling in cycled vocalized lyric-harmonies as it settles out in cadences that billow gracefully over the background of the percussively beating synthetic symphony.

Perhaps the most exotic of pieces, and a new breath of life into Heap’s music, is the collaboration with Vishal-Shekhar, a musical-directing duo, in the song “Minds Without Fear.”  The song explores an Indian-inspired syncopation of instrumentation, blending the cultures in beating pop-oriented rhythmic style. The presence of distinct and foreign voices along with Heap’s creates a unique harmony unlike anything on this album or others prior.

The next track, “Me the Machine,” is unique in that it is created through the use of new technology known as musical gloves. With the gloves adorned, Heap can create the ambient, dream-pop sounds with the swaying motions of her body.

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The second to last track is titled “Xizi She Knows” and it floats in rather slowly. However, with a composed and looming refrain that breaks in quickly, the melody spins and swells and fully indulges into a pop orientated rhythm. It sings a rather catchy rhythmical undulation, yet it is distinctly different from the others thus far.

The final track serves as a quiet postlude from the likes of the previous track. “Propeller Seeds” offers a unique and familiar touch reminiscent of Heap’s previous works. It brings the cyclic layering and small synthetic notes to the forefront. The quick rhythm of the xylophone tones moves the melody along, and coupled with the slow growing voice the track is sent off in a final adieu onto the waves of a charmingly shaped dreamscape sea.

Every sound Imogen Heap creates is of either gracefully composed melodies or of an energized ambient cadence. Either way, each track propels itself on entirely different wavelengths and reaches the ear in what one could either enjoy or loathe. But despite the divergence of sounds, each is mystically composed to create a hint of a liking within any listener.

Jake Saunders can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @saundersfj or by phone at 536-3311 ext. 254.

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