Critics of electronica often complain that much of it has a cold, impersonal quality -- that warmth and humanity are missing from what can be a very producer-driven medium. But there is no law stating that electronica has to be cold; it all comes down to how the participants decide to use technology. And technology is used in a very human way on Details, a collaboration between producer Guy Sigsworth and singer/songwriter Imogen Heap. Together, Sigsworth and Heap comprise the British duo Frou Frou, which has the sort of name that listeners might expect from one of Europop's more bubblegum acts. Hearing the name Frou Frou, one might expect something along the lines of ABBA, Fun Fun, Jemma & Elise, Bananarama, or Aqua. But there is nothing bubblegum about Details -- quite the contrary. Tracks like "The Dumbing Down of Love" and the single "Breathe In" have an atmospheric, dreamy, ethereal outlook. Björk (who Sigsworth has worked with extensively) is a strong influence, and other valid comparisons range from Kate Bush to Dido. Although Sigsworth's high-tech production is attractive, this 2002 release isn't about production gloss for the sake of production gloss -- it's also about solid songwriting and expressive vocals. Had Sigsworth and Heap been forced to record an acoustic project, Details still would have had a lot going for it. Sigsworth uses technology to his creative advantage, but he doesn't hide behind it -- for Frou Frou, technology is not an attempt to compensate for weak singing or weak material. Ultimately, quality singing and composing are the things that make Details a cut above much of the electronic Europop that came out in 2002.
by Alex Henderson