By JENNIFER KELLY
Haley Fohr’s fifth album as Circuit Des Yeux is no less harrowing than 2011’s Portrait, but it’s a lot less lonely. For it, Fohr brought in a slew of Chicago experimental artists, her close musical confidante, Cooper Crain of Bitchin’ Bajas and Cave, plus reed player Rob Frye (also of Bitchin Bajas violist Whitney Johnson (who normally plays with Verma), Adam Luksetich of Foul Tip on bass and drums and folk-derived sonic anarchist Kathleen Baird of Spires That in the Sunset Rise for various instruments and backing vocals.
The center of the sound is still Fohr’s extraordinary voice, pitched velvety low and throbbing with vibrato, but she is surrounded by a rich, communal palette, the long revelatory “Dream of TV” ends with her wordless, not wholly human vocals, shrouded in strings, flutters of flute and delicate tracery of vocal counterpart. There’s a vast, echoing space around her, whether she croons abstractly, as on “Guitar Knife” or follows a nearly conventional rock melody through “Fantasize the Scene.” Her sonic constructions — to call them songs over-minimizes them — seem to exist in a heightened parallel universe, the colors brighter, the shadows darker than life.
Fohr’s conflation of classically assured vocal beauty and crashing, industrial rock drama recalls Jarboe more than any other artist, though you could also make a case for Catherine Ribeiro. It’s strong, vital stuff, bursting through the confines of traditional rock, pop or even experimental drone. You hardly know what to make of it, but you can’t wait to hear what happens next. That was true, too, of her earlier work, but for this one she’s brought a whole army of sounds and marshalled them in impressive formations. Fohr may be a wild card, but she is firmly, fascinatingly in control.
DOWNLOAD: “Do the Dishes” “Dream of TV”