imogenheap

Echoes of ‘Vespertine’ in the electro-acoustic backing; vocals close-mic’d, speak-sung: “Hey babe, how’s your day been? No, you first. Oh, what? The delay’s quite bad. Yeah, sorry.” And as if to make an obvious point even more so, the track’s entitled ‘Telemiscommunications’. Not unlike Damon Albarn’s (admittedly better) ‘Everyday Robots’, what might be called the emotional heart of Imogen Heap’s fourth album, ‘Sparks’, engages in a critique whose supposed profundity is somewhat dubious. The villain: technology; the victim: relationships.

This all treats the digital medium as an intruder into everyday experience, but isn’t it actually inextricably entwined with – even inseparable from – ‘real-life’, creating new spaces, new forms, even whilst it erodes those of old? Stopping somewhere short of glitch, Heap’s dramatic (over)production incorporates digitalia as mere exoticism, a signifier of the contemporary kept largely at arm’s length. And the authenticity of the physical – indexed most forcefully by her vocal acrobatics – predictably wins the day. The phone call continues: “Can I call you back? Yeah, everything’s fine. Why, am I? I don’t know why. I probably just need sleep, it’s been a busy week.”

Somewhere, at a dinner party in middle England, ‘Telemiscommunications’ is skipped for being a little depressing. I’d just forgo the whole lot and enjoy the sound of cutlery.

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