Reaching for Indigo, Haley Fohr’s fifth album as Circuit Des Yeux, explores an undisclosed autobiographical experience, but invites its audience to project themselves into the picture. April Clare Welsh cracks exactly how Fohr used language to be both discreetly personal and universally relatable.
Reaching for Indigo, the new album from Haley Fohr’s Circuit Des Yeux project, explores what was referred to as “a moment that fell down in the life of [Haley] Fohr on January 22, 2016” upon its announcement back in August. Although she has not since disclosed much else, a recent Facebook post gave some insight into that moment’s life-changing impact. “To say it’s been a transitional time in my life would be an understatement,” she wrote before handing the analytical reigns to the listener: “Here’s to finding your own personal answers and armoring yourself with them through life.”
While the album springboards off a moment in Fohr’s own life, here she is asking the listener to interpret it in accordance with their own personal trajectory. “The world wants an oath but all you can say is: ‘I promise to take up space. I can only promise to take up space,'” she sings on album opener ‘Brainshift’. Cushioned by hymn-like organ and horn, it’s an invite to ruminate on the self that lingers for the rest of the album.
On the cuckoo-song of ‘Paper Bag’, Fohr impels the listener to “stick your head in a paper bag / And see just what you find,” before asking: “Was it you? Was it me? Or was it another type?” A note on the lyric sheet commands you to “create your own language” for freewheeling instrumental stew ‘A Story of the World Part II’. Melding ’70s avant-rock with Crazy Horse-style stoner wig-outs, the track’s scattergun caterwauling and primal screams elevate it to the realm of a mediative psalm, one that invites you to take stock of your own thoughts.
At times, the album also juxtaposes the personal with the universal. “Nobody said it was easy / But it was so easy / To stand alone, the breeze in my hair / The wind in my hair, black fly coming round the bend,” croons Fohr on ‘Black Fly’. Backed by a wintery acoustic strum and mandolin tremolos that flutter above the sonic melodrama of her deep-voiced, Karen Dalton-tipped howl, it’s the record’s starkest track, but the one that arguably cuts the deepest.
Reaching for Indigo is Fohr’s second LP recorded with a full band of her fellow Chicagoans, following 2015’s In Plain Speech. It’s an album entrenched in community – and by default, the connectivity of the human condition – and Fohr gushes with gratitude over her support network in the aforementioned Facebook post, noting how “it takes a village to keep me going.”
But aside from the album’s community-minded ethos and outward-looking openness, Haley Fohr’s idiosyncratic voice stands tall and proud throughout – for example, the operatic folk fantasia of ‘Philo’ boasts one of the most histrionic codas you will find in any pop song in 2017, with Fohr channelling both agony and ecstasy through her four-octave ranged vocal.
“It is my mode of true expression,” Circuit des Yeux said of her voice back in 2015, around the release of In Plain Speech. That declaration still clings fast to this album, with its impressive vocal acrobatics that often substitute language for sounds. But while confessional songwriting is by its very nature inward-looking, on Reaching For Indigo Fohr selflessly offers a hand to the listener – create your own language, if you so wish.