Haley Fohr’s music strikes a unique balance between the personal and universal. As Circuit des Yeux she creates music that embodies the complexity of human emotions, juxtaposing tenderness and grief, ecstasy and horror, using sounds as representations of the emotional spectrum that we all experience. Fohr’s striking voice, an impassioned baritone, is the music’s centerpiece and guiding force. On In Plain Speech, Fohr is joined by some of the most progressive musicians in the Chicago music community; Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin’ Bajas), Whitney Johnson (Verma), Rob Frye (Bitchin Bajas), Adam Luksetich (Little Scream), and Kathleen Baird (Spires That In The Sunset Rise). Fohr cements her reputation as a fearless songwriter and inventive arranger with this stirring collection of songs that are both gorgeous and emotionally potent.
In Plain Speech represents the start of a new, more collaborative chapter for Circuit des Yeux. While previous works were solo affairs, not only in performance, but emotionally tied to a sense of confinement and place, these new songs were composed after a move to a collective living space, giving Fohr an opportunity to break free of the isolation that informed her previous albums. Fohr brought her community, literally, to the recording. In Plain Speech continues her collaboration with Crain, but it is her first recording with a full band, who are all leaders in Chicago’s new wave of creative musicians. Her songs, while always potent when delivered solo, shine in this new band context. Companionship and solidarity are themes woven throughout the album. “Do The Dishes” is a meditation on sisterhood, and a message to other women to take risks, follow their passions deeply and to love themselves. “Fantasize the Scene” explores the idea of eternal friendship.
Extensive touring after Circuit des Yeux’s acclaimed 2013 album Overdue influenced the making of the album in several ways. On that tour, which stretched for months throughout Europe and the US, Fohr toured solo, no band, no tour manager, no driver, and in that solitude learned to commune with the audience in a way that she hadn’t ever before. That connection sparked in her mind a conversation with the audience, and many of the lyrics on In Plain Speech are directed at “you,” the listener. She also became acutely aware of disquiet, a pervasive anxiety, which permeated society in almost every city she visited. “I felt an uneasiness that superseded phonetic communication,” she writes. “Something dim is in the air, and it is looming large.” This anxiety creeped into songs like “A Story Of This World,” which is a call for change of priorities and values among the world’s leadership.