Imogen Heap – Sparks

Imogen Heap - Sparks

Imogen Heap’s fourth album Sparks

I’ve gone on record to say that Imogen Heap‘s 2005 album Speak For Yourself has changed the way I listen to and think about music and how it’s is made. It was and still is a fascinating experience with compelling sounds and catchy melodies. An all-around fantastic album that I wouldn’t hesitate to call life-changing.

Imogen’s most recent collection of songs has been in the works for over three years and she has kept fans in the loop every step of the way through blogs, videos and audio recordings.

In March 2011, she set out to release one new song every three months until she reached a point where those songs could come together to make up a full album.

The first recording to come out of this project, Lifeline, was released several weeks later and is made up heavily of samples sent in by people from around the world that include the sounds of dropped cutlery, a cardboard box, an egg in a bowl, ripping paper, and dozens of others. With Imogen’s sound-manipulating abilities, the end result isn’t nearly as one might expect.

In the months and years to follow, she continued to release music one song at a time. Sometimes on schedule, sometimes not, but she continued to raise the bar for herself by using different and sometimes extremely ambitious methods and ideas.

Propeller Seeds was recorded using 3D audio effects where the best experience is with a good set of headphones, and Me The Machine was created with a pair of wired-gloves (watch this video to see these gloves and Immi in action!)

Meanwhile, The Listening Chair is a song that won’t be complete for as long as Imogen is alive. It’s exclusively her vocals (other than the very beginning and end) as she sings autobiographically about her life in increments of seven years up until now, with the plan to keep adding to it every seven years for the rest of her life.

Simply listening to Sparks in its entirety doesn’t even begin to explain the adventure that likely went into its creation and that is its absolute weakness. Knowing the background of how the songs were created is almost essential in being able to appreciate the result, otherwise it doesn’t have the on-the-surface melodies that Speak For Yourself had and as such, there’s really not much to grab on to for those not interested in music production.

The upside to such an ambitiously made album is that with so much to take in and consider, it’s sure to offer new ideas, discoveries and perspectives with every listen. And if that isn’t enough, each track has a music video on her YouTube channel, plus her website has plenty to offer to further learn about each recording.

What makes Sparks such an impressive album isn’t the finished result in its basic audio format but the journey of how it came to be. The album can best be described with the saying “it’s not where you end up but how you get there that counts.”
Four stars

1. You Know Where To Find Me
2. Entanglement
3. The Listening Chair
4. Cycle Song
5. Telemiscommunications [with Deadmau5]
6. Lifeline
7. Neglected Space
8. Minds Without Fear [with Vishal-Shekhar]
9. Me The Machine
10. Run-Time
11. Climb To Sakteng
12. The Beast
13. Xizi She Knows
14. Propeller Seeds

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