Imogen Heap’s third full-length record comes more than four years after the release of her breakthrough album, Speak For Yourself, and the English singer/multi-instrumentalist seems to have spent most of that time cramming every conceivable production gimmick and vocal effect into Ellipse. The result is a muddled collection of gently electronic pop that vacillates between mildly engaging and outright boring, a prime candidate for scoring teen TV dramas and stocking Starbucks shelves.
Sometimes the sonic clutter translates to “lush,” as on the Portishead-esque “2-1,” and sometimes it translates to “intriguing,” as on the shouldn’t-work-but-does “Bad Body Double,” which takes a vaguely spoken-word approach. But more often it translates to “background music.” Heap spends too much time wallowing in her comfort zone: The record’s first two tracks, “First Train Home” and “Wait It Out,” try to compensate for their blandness with the sort of twinkling, echoing effects that should be familiar to anyone who heard Speak For Yourself (or anything by Heap’s other outlet, Frou Frou). She finally starts stretching out a little more on “Earth,” using comparatively simple instrumentation and her warm voice to create a nice little pop nugget, but she quickly retreats to the safe zone of pleasant atmospherics. Unfortunately, for every spark of originality on Ellipse, there’s a monotonous stretch of sameness to obscure the album’s scant life.