I first discovered Imogen Heap’s glorious sweet voice while watching Zack Braff’s film, Garden State. Bought the soundtrack. Followed the trail from there.
Heap’s music is like no other, with her surreal, ethereal, ghostly musical tones and sequences, crafted by a magically eccentric woman-child, waiting to be set free by that music. Electronica with a truly human face. Ethereality with the gaze of a beautiful child become beautiful woman who never forgot that child and can’t. Imogen Heap’s influences are said to include Kate Bush, Bjork and Annie Lennox, though she takes her music in decidedly different directions. Classically trained on the piano, cello and clarinet, she seems the natural polyphonic genius, adept at using new technology as well to heighten her command over her material, as this video shows:
Imogen Heap’s Headlock.
Singers who also play woodwind instruments tend to have more control over their voices. It’s the breathing. It’s the manipulation of breath to change notes to half-notes and quarter-notes and change those on a dime. Imogen Heap has that ability to sequence, to breathe, to dance through her songs, with subtlety and grace. At the same time, she can be explosive and impulsive. That seems to come often after moments of vulnerability and loneliness captured in song and lyric. A genius with tone, shading, and hues, she paints the notes as well as dances through them.
Like another eccentric singer/songwriter, Milla Jovovich, I sometimes see Imogen as too magical for this world, too good, too much the sad waif-spirit. Like Van Gogh’s contemporary reception, I wonder if her audience really sees what’s in front of them, now, today, here, and if she feels that disconnection at times. She must. She must feel that she is not really being heard at times. Not really seen.
But in our media-saturated age, performers are not supposed to ever show this. They are supposed to be “cooler” than the rest of us, confidently ahead of the curve, 24/7. Shields up. Immune. Sometimes we miss the soul for the show . . .