“An acquaintance with benefits, a work in progress/ Downloading romance, downloading romance,” sings Imogen Heap in “Me the Machine,” articulating a sentiment reiterated in many ways throughout much of her fourth album. “Sparks” finds the singer seeking out the demarcation between technology and humanity; she embraces computerized sound eagerly, but doesn’t necessarily trust it to express the vital beats of the human heart. Heap approaches the problem from several directions: the globo-acoustic/synthesized hybrid stomp favored by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel at their peaks (“Cycle Song” and “Minds Without Fear,” respectively); a dark but openhearted piano ballad colored by orchestrated samples (“You Know Where to Find Me”). The circuits run deep, but Heap keeps the machines from winning; even when experiments spin out of her control — or produce the occasional inert result — it comes honestly from messy curiosity, not mechanical autopilot. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “You Know Where to Find Me”Marc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com.