Album: Imogen Heap

Speak for Yourself, MEGAPHONIC
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The Independent Culture

Formerly half of the alt.rock duo Frou Frou, Imogen Heap remortgaged her flat to fund this latest project, buying in a load of studio equipment and recording virtually all of it - save for the occasional drum or horn part, and a brief cameo from Jeff Beck - alone at home. And it shows: although the way she marshals the various Dido/Joni/Tori flavours is impressive, there's a thick, clotted texture to the tracks that is characteristic of a self-produced artist besotted with a new digital studio set-up. Heap's basic style is pretty risky to begin with - imagine Tori Amos's emotional melodramas set to fizzing electro-pop - and her propensity to indulge her every sonic whim in layer upon layer of sounds often obscures the songs. The opener, "Headlock", is typical, with its over-busy backdrop of stalking keyboard notes, harp glissandi and marching synth line, and the interlocking layers of vocals. "Excess is the new moderation," she claims in "Daylight Robbery", "Wade in the sonic joy/ Pleasure the wave and synchronise," but there's no sense of abandon possible in the fussed-over music. Most irritating of all is "Hide And Seek", an a cappella piece on which her voice is subjected to an annoying octave-splitter effect. Ironically, it's the track which has brought her the most attention, following its use in the American soap The OC.

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