Imogen Heap's fourth full length album 'Sparks' has been three years in the making. Since 2009's Grammy award winning 'Ellipse', Heap has been working with her fan generated 'sound seeds' to create a very innovative and original collection of songs. Each song prior to the album release has been written, produced and released every three months, the last of these being the de-constructed electro and strings sound of 'Entanglement'.
The aspiring, Ping-Pong playing, cheese loving astronaut who can "hold her breathe for a very long time" started the adventurous project back in March 2011 with the first track that was to form part of this album, 'Lifeline'. The poignant tribute to the victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was subsequently followed by a trip to China where heap recorded the orientally infused 'Xizi She Knows'.
Heap's scope and influence have seemingly seen no bounds in order to create something as challenging as 'Sparks'. She has taken collaboration to new levels having not only worked with deadmau5 on the beautifully crafted social commentary of 'Telemiscommunications', but also, among others, Intel (yes Intel... you don't need to look it up, it's not some underground DJ you've missed) on the synth backed jogging app 'Run Time'.
The album veers wildly at times, taking in points of reference from a diverse portfolio. There is everything from the calm soft serenity of the piano led ballad 'You Know Where To Find Me' and the charming, near instrumental, whirring mesmerism of the 'Cycle Song' right through to the Bhangra beats of 'Minds Without Fear' and the unending, perhaps never to be completed, joy of 'The Listening Chair'.
Interesting ideas, wired gloves, elaborate conceptions and unique collaborations make for a wonderfully contrived and individual album. However, this is also why it doesn't necessarily flow, has minimal cohesion to hold it together and has, as it is, the feeling of a singles collection rather than an album. Inspirational and inspiring it may be, but outstanding it is not. Certainly, there are many highs, 'Entanglement', 'You Know Where To Find Me' and 'Telemiscommunications' are undoubtedly great stand alone tracks, but the album's remit is a step too far, too vast and too much to make it truly something special, which is a shame.
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