Ok, well not Love love. Just a wild infatuation for her methods and mechanics, really. Imogen Heap is an artist in a world all her own, an avant-garde electro-pop wonder with a delivery that’s equal parts Björk, Joni Mitchell and Laurie Anderson. Her intensely charismatic vocals, ranging between a delicate whisper and full-throated siren wail, dive and weave through her wonderland soundscapes and genre-smashing instrumental versatility. Everything is fair game in designing the perfect sonic collage, it seems.
You might’ve heard Imogen on the soundtrack to Garden State, or in the background as you dive for the remote when your dog steps on the remote and clicks over to The OC (riiiight). She’s been popping up just about everywhere in the past year or two, and with two Grammy nominations and legions of followers already shouting her name from the mountaintops I’d say it’s a safe bet that we’ll be seeing a lot more of her once her new album is finished and presented.
Here’s an example of Imogen’s live performance magic- taken from her sessions at the now-defunct Indie 103.1 station here in Los Angeles. It’s a beautiful rising sound, a loop-pedal handclap study in self-harmonizing, building to a breathless, multi-layered climax before fading out on a reflective whisper.
Imogen is currently working on her third studio album, giving fans an intimate look at the musical embryos of what she’s creating with updates regularly on her Twitter account. She often shares her ideas and hurdles in regards to what she’s working on, and seems to genuinely respond to her fans’ input. Her latest work is a piece called Tidal, in which she’s musing on arpeggio line placement, ambivalent about which of the versions of her song she likes most. Here you can see/hear a clip of the song’s original form, before tinkering with the bells and whistles. She posts updates of the piece in progress as it develops over time, leaving a patchwork tapestry of possibilities for fans to respond to and critique. And judging from her Twitter posts, she takes them to heart as she moves the song along.
It’s exciting to see an artist utilizing such an interactive social medium to present her work in development. It may seem like common sense to anyone with half a modern mind, but the fact is, it’s still a concept that musicians seem hesitant to embrace. Maybe it’s a remnant of the old mystique that people still cling to. When I was a kid, rock stars were godlike beings shrouded in a thick fog of mystery- we knew next to nothing about them that wasn’t contrived, spun and micromanaged by publicists, managers and an army of handlers. They were otherworldly beings that came to rock our world and give herpes to our sisters and girlfriends (and some of our moms)- that’s all we knew. We were just thrilled to be in the same stadium when they came to town. Never in hell would I have guessed that within a short period of time the industry would be tanking, and technology (mixed with a heavy dose of celebrity/tabloid obsession) would pull the veil on the well-kept secret that most of our musical heroes are just as human as we are. For some of the big swingers, that’s meant the death of the God complex that used to be part of the package deal for rock stars on the rise. For others, it’s a way to finally connect with their audience directly and move forward into new territories.
Needless to say, Imogen Heap clearly subscribes to the latter school of thought. Her magic isn’t manufactured, and it doesn’t take a team of handlers to craft her image. She’s a bona fide musical weirdo savant, and her world sells itself.