Saturday, November 13, 2010

imogen heap - everything in-between

it hadn't occurred to me that I could review this when I bought it. I was so happy to just watch it. The first thing I thought of when beginning to write this is "How am I going to communicate this to people who don't listen to Imogen Heap?" Is it even worth exploring as a purchase option if you've never heard of her, or if you groan every time I play her like my sister does? Seriously she threatens me when I play Just For Now. I then realized that there's really no way for me to report objectively. I've been a Heap fan for about 4 years now, and during that time I've been so hopelessly in love with her and her music that I don't even remember what it's like to not be a fan of hers. That's how much I love it. I had been waiting for this a while, and was disappointed when I went to a Best Buy to pick it up only to find it'd been delayed. So now that I've finally got a copy of this DVD, what's it about? Not appropriate.

There will be more

It's about the 3 or so years Imogen Heap spent making her 3rd album after the success of Speak for Yourself. During that time, she built a house, built a recording studio, got in shape, bought a car, traveled, cooked, and socialized, and all of this is documented with surprising interesting....ness. None of these activities, which sound boring, are boring. Each piece, to her, was necessary for doing what she felt she "needed to do" to get her creative juices flowing and keep herself in a joyful mood, so as to be able to actually put out a good album. The narrative works much in the way you'd expect a work of fiction to, with all of the necessary lows and highs, successes and failures, beginnings and ends and random wacky behavior. She's such an eccentric person (without being weird) that she doesn't really mind just being a 'tard in front of the camera, and it makes her incredibly entertaining to watch. We get to see her use a whole bunch of homemade instruments as well as some "what the hell is that" instruments. She records little creaks in her house, and then will do something like mix it with the dripping sink, play it backwards and turn up the trebble. She has a wooden box with a whole bunch of nails (nails!) hammered into it that she then will pluck. I'm pretty sure I saw something that looked like a mongolian shield that she'd turned over and patted in different places for different notes. And some guitar. It's hard to explain, but theres a certain joy in watching her do her thing without any filtration of conventional instruments, time regulation or anything like that. There's almost 0 lost in translation between human and song.

She plays this

The DVD also goes through the different constructions of several of the songs. I'm pretty sure each song on Ellipse got its own mention at least. It was interesting to see how several of the songs I loved evolved and changed over 3 years. One of my favorite songs, Tidal, went through several phases, and was almost unrecognizable at first. It showed both how far the song had come as she worked on it, and how necessary every change she made was. As samples played over time, it slowly became the song I know. She goes through several crises as well. Because she takes a long time to do an album, she comes up on several deadlines, and has to pull a lot of things together and work late into the night to get things done. In several cases she makes herself ill and/or miserable which necessitates breaks. Then we get to see the relief as she gets this or that done, and is able to enjoy something like her 30th birthday, getting her drivers license or buying her car.
Streamlined in to the proper documentary-style/quality video of her working are interviews with her, her friends and family, and her own home videos. Some of the people working for or with her just give little "working with her is great"-style commentary, others come from close friends and family, and tell little anecdotes about her childhood and the kind of things only close friends usually hear. They talk about what a workaholic she can be, how she just needs to be left alone instead of pulled away when she gets into a work mode.
If you know who she is and you're reading this, you already have the DVD (correction: if you're a big fan, you own it). And that brings me to the really difficult part of the review. If you don't know who she is, should you even investigate buying it? As much as the fan in me wants to say yes, I must say: Probably not. I wish I could recommend it to non-fans, but unless you're a music doc buff, there's probably not a lot for you here. If somebody sat me down and started showing me a documentary on Bon Jovi or something, it would just confuse me, and that's what I imagine watching this would be like for others. You can try watching her original blog on youtube, and if you like that, then yes it's a great buy.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! you are incorrect sir, I both know who she is AND read this but I do not already have the DVD.

    I'd be interested in watching it though. I've seen a few behind the scenes looks at bands and I like it. Killswitch Engage put out a DVD a few years ago and it was really insightful/ hilarious. For bands at least it's cool to see how they mesh and interact off stage. For Imogen Heap I'm sure it's awesome to see her creative process, she's incredibly talented.


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