For her fourth album, Imogen Heap has sampled, well, everything.
Sparks is an astonishingly ambitious work, taking in snatches of fans' voices, a Bhutanese dranyen, sounds from a garden, and guest appearances from EDM don Deadmau5 and Indian film music duo Vishal-Shekhar – and that's not even the half of it. One track, The Listening Chair, will only be completed on Heap's demise with another minute added every seven years.
That song's a particularly good example of Heap's restless creativity, centred around a cappella singing 'in the round', fingerclicks, handclaps, piping synths and padded drum machine beats. The results are pretty, almost festive, but her ideas don't always come off so well.
While tracks like You Know Where To Find Me and Neglected Space shape a pleasing ambience, the effect is a balm to the ears rather than a song of any discernible structure. It's a similar story with Me The Machine, which – like the broad, witchy folk of Cycle Song – feels like a Kate Bush number from the second half of Hounds Of Love, mystical and questing, but doesn't have the rigorous concision of Bush at her best.
Eventually, it feels as if Heap's mind was racing but she didn't take the time to impose any kind of order. This makes for an interesting experience, no doubt, without ever really coming up with a tune to take away. Laudable effort, frustrating conclusion.