Imogen Heaphas always striven to find ways to invite us into her 3D world and keep us safe and sound in her bubble. We’ve had blogs, vlogs, tweets, vokles, ustreams, 12 seconds, Q&A’s, 3DiCD’s, and she’s continuing to achieve the ultimate balance of music, fan interaction, and innovation with the release what is perhaps the world’s first official 3D song, a release of her #heapsong series, titled “Propeller Seeds”.
First of all, pop on your headphones because unless you’re listening to this song through professional monitoring speakers or a great consumer based stereo system, you’re going to miss a lot of the work that went into making this track an actual 3D song. Got them on? Okay, let’s go.
Immi enlisted Nick Ryan, an accomplished sound designer and artist in helping create the soundscape for #heapsong2 aka “Propeller Seeds”. The team used several techniques in creating a world in which you feel like you’re living out the song as it rolls along through your ears. One of these approaches to making this experience possible was by using binaural microphones to capture the audio of various scenes and places. Binaural recordings are a pair of microphones which fit over the ears to record a stereo sound and since they’re around your ears, what you record is what you hear. The sounds were then treated using 3D sound, which is an effect in which the stereo spread is widened by modifying the phase of the soundwaves along with smart panning and other stereo imaging techniques, then applying the affected recordings the same way you would mix a normal record: delay, compression, reverberation, etc.
Speaking of reverb, to get an accurate portrayal of the environments represented throughout the song, Imogen and Nick went to various buildings and public places and did what sound designers normally do to defuse any sound reflections within a room, so that they can create a space that is acoustically treated for recording audio. They popped balloons. The balloon popping was recorded for the sake of accurately pinpointing exactly how long a sound reverberates and says within the space Imogen wants to sonically recreate. But why is this done? Well, in a certain part of the song, she’s sitting in a restaurant and to better create the atmosphere of what a restaurant sounds like, the sounds within the setting are dowsed with reverb that is calculated almost exactly how the reverb sounds in the actual restaurant the recording is based off of.
You can hear the outcome of some of the sounds recorded binaural style and treated with 3D sound on #heapsong2’s soundcloud page. The hard part is over. Did you follow well or is your brain currently liquified and seeping out of your nose?
There’s a lot more that went into the engineering process as there still had to be an actual stereo song to mix and I’m sure that phase was a bit of an issue throughout the mastering process, but the final product sounds great! In my “Lifeline” review I stated that Imogen’s records after her Speak For Yourself seemed to go light on mastering and sound a bit flat, but this one sounds far superior and ranks up with the lush sonics that SFY delivered us. Thank you to Simon Heyworth, who once again handled the mastering work! (Again, just to be clear, I really do like and respect all of the mixing and mastering work done on Imogen Heap projects. These processes are subjective to what the artist wants done to their work and as long as the audio is handled with care, which all of Immi’s projects are, there’s no shade to be delivered. I just prefer a little more oomph! sometimes).
Though the entire songs is one amazing piece of work, the coolest parts throughout the track have got to be the section during Heap sings “I must be coming down with something to be thinking this!” The audio spins around the speakers and suddenly comes full focus and centered with the last word of the phrase. Throughout the second verse, there is a jazz band that was recorded live during their setlist and is also whirling around in the mix. They’re amazing touches to a song that tells a story of how Imogen met her current boyfriend, who is also featured on the song as one of the voices you hear in the background of the track.
Kelly Snook also took to recording, engineering, and mixing, a beautiful acoustic version of “Lifeline” that was played during the party for the release of #heapsong2. It’s available in a bundle from Imogenheap.com and includes a 9 minute explanation with Nick and Immi on how the song came about, and also includes the 3DiCD from Andy Carne and a way cool music video shot by Simon Henwood.
It’s mind blowing, I know. It’s what Imogen does best and it’s why we love her. Can’t wait for #heapsong3! What are your feelings on “Propeller Seeds” and the Heapsong series so far? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to like us on Facebook.
Track Rating: 5/5
Purchase Propeller Seeds from Imogen Heap’s Website! There are a bunch of options to choose from. MP3 to Lossless. Just the song, to a bundle package! Click here to check it all out!