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MUSIC REVIEW

She piles on layered sound, to great effect

"This is my choir," sang Imogen Heap and the multiple synth-voiced Imogens that materialized through the sound system between songs as she gave the audience a tour of her stage Saturday at Avalon. "I play them with my fingers," she/they continued, referring to the keyboard Heap was using to create the effect. "They do what I say."

Except for some brief vocal feedback problems early on, disobedient music wasn't a concern. The layered electronic sounds were well under Heap's control as she crossed the performance art sound manipulation of Laurie Anderson with the openhearted romanticism of Kate Bush. Despite the beats of songs like "The Walk" and "Goodnight and Go," she didn't seem interested in making her listeners dance so much as generating the same feeling that dancing generates while skipping the movement entirely.

Dressed somewhere between Revolution-era Wendy Melvoin and Cyndi Lauper, her hair pushed upward and topped with a mohawk of flowers, Heap made for a droll hostess even as her headset microphone could barely pick up the dryly wittily but low-volume muttering she offered as stage banter. But it was perfectly calibrated for her singing, capturing the slight ache at the low end of her range and diffusing into ethereality at the upper end.

A band popped up occasionally to provide support both subtle ("Closing In") and propulsive ("Daylight Robbery"), but the core of Heap's performance found her alone on stage with her toys. Like a plate spinner constantly attending to the objects she set in motion, she rarely stayed in one place, hopping from device to device to trigger the next loop or create it on the fly. When she did stop at the front of the stage to sing and gently dance, it only lasted a brief moment while she was in transit.

Openers Levi Weaver and Kid Beyond shared with Heap a love for on-the-fly loops, though the ones that augmented Weaver's solo acoustic guitar were sometimes cluttered and shrill. Beatbox virtuoso Kid Beyond was like a post-millennial Bobby McFerrin, fashioning loops out of nothing but his voice to create techno, dancehall , and trip-hop songs, including an astonishing cover of Portishead's "Wandering Star."

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