Imogen Heap has done more than keep her promise of releasing one song every three months for the next three years by giving us quite a fantastic surprise: two new songs! “Neglected Space” aka #heapsong3 & “Minds Without Fear” (apparently #heapsong4, as she’s already tweeting about work on #heapsong5 – but don’t quote us on that).
“Neglected Space” – Rating: 4.5/5
“Neglected Space” is one of Imogen’s most atmospheric and sonically evolving track to date. Song elements and structure change every few measures, ranging from distorted ambient bass pulses, beautiful pads and background vocals that range anywhere from straightforward signature Imogen Heap style vocal phrasing, to some instances of vocal stuttering that are just prominent enough to be some of the stand out creative moments of the track (hear the word “wait” at 2 minutes and 8 seconds into the track).
Whether it be an empty abandoned home as the video demonstrates, a Georgian walled garden spoken about on the mini-site of #heapsong3, or just a human being feeling unrecognized, it’s all beautifully chronicled through a moody undercurrent and layers of spoken word. Imogen’s harmonizer also makes it’s return in this track, contributing an eerie lower pitched vocal double effect distinguished through well over half of the track.
“But I’m peeling paint, I’m a sunken ceiling, I’m cracking up and can seem threatening. I’m falling apart. I’m scary at night. Taped up, forbidden” Heap whispers during the tracks most sparse moments and is where the track sits the nicest – a build up of Imogen harmonies before several instruments and panned pad transitions in a small reverberated piano.
The thing that makes this track work out so well is it’s subtleties. While there are bass-like sounds that weave in and out of the mix, it’s not until the song’s final climax that a synth-bass takes hold and hits nicely in the mix, creating a temperamental state and nurturing the moments where Heap breaks out of speaking, into multiple channels of vocals and harmonies that blanket and bring together the entire mix.
However, while subtleties work through most of the track, there’s a small lack of stimulant that sometimes causes “Neglected Space” to fall flat upon it’s full aggressive potential, especially upon the percussion that comes in toward the end of the track. It’s a mixing technique not surprising, as Imogen has gone for a more organic and natural feel for the sonics within her records since Ellipse, and while the song sits at a standard dynamic range of 8db with a bit of headroom left to spare throughout the bulk of the track, it’d be nice to hear a bit more of a competitive punch, something to instantly grab the ear and tell it to tell your body to move instead of sway.
“Neglected Space” can be purchased via Imogen’s official website in MP3 or lossless format, as well as a package deal equipped with a music video, 3DiCD, and video demonstrating the recording process for her previous release, #heapsong2, 3D-song “Propeller Seeds”.
“Minds Without Fear” – Rating: 4/5
In an interesting turn of events for apparent #heapsong4, Imogen turned to collaborate with an India based webisode series called Dewartists which brings together groundbreaking artists from different backgrounds and parts of the world to work on one solid project. In it’s premiere episode, Imogen Heap teams up with Vishal-Shekhar an Indian Rock/Pop musician, for a song inspired by the Tagore poem, “Where The Mind Is Without Fear”.
The track itself is a wonderful mix of Pop music, incorporating live instruments native to the middle eastern country and sequenced MIDI bass lines and percussion samples. It’s extremely fascinating watching the entire recording process and time spent in India go down through the documentary below and we recommend a viewing of it, as we watched in awe.
The only problem with this track lie within Imogen’s recorded vocals. The song was all done in a 475-year-old Samode Palace on the outskirts of Jaipur in Rajasthan and it’s evident that sound wave reflections were recorded during the process. Imogen’s & Vishal’s vocals sometimes sound cluttered and un-wantingly doubled, but it’s nicely dodged as being a horrible mixing disaster by placing most of the instrumentation at the front line of the mix, leaving vocals on a bit of a lower plateau – becoming the glue that melodically brings the busy mix together and gives it it’s ultimate direction.
“Minds Without Fear” can be purchased through Imogen Heap’s Official Website.
All in All
While both songs have their technical mishaps, they’re sewn together nicely and as we spoke about with our “Propeller Seeds” review, as long as a song is taken in with respect and sonic care, it’s ultimately up to the artists and engineers as to how they’d like to present the sounds and track to the public – which, in Imogen’s case, is a beautiful display of layers and layers of frequencies, all seamlessly connecting through more stripped down means of mixing, like vast automation, as opposed to crushing frequencies with compression and causing them to sound more like her competitors.
While it makes her songs a bit less eye opening to the hardcore pop fans that are still clinging on to their Speak For Yourself and Frou Frou’s Details release for dear life, they’re records with sonic clarity that make it easier for the repeat button to be abused and tracks to be less fatiguing to the ear over long periods of time. Not wanting to fatigue may be in part to why Imogen prefers to mix this way. After all, she does write, play, record, program, and mix all of her records. The last thing wanted while being immersed within your own song during every single process possible (including listening to several masters) is wanting a dynamically crushed mix that wears your ears out faster than the dozens upon dozens of hours spent putting together a track you’d like to call your own.
All in all it’s a respectful mix and two gorgeous songs. We’re eagerly anticipating more.