by Philip Moss
Grief + writer’s block + pandemic x 23 piece orchestra = the pinnacle of Haley Fohr’s career
Staring down the lens of the most barren period of her musical career, Haley Fohr struggled to see any potential direction through the dense winter fog that surrounded her. But returning home to Chicago from a trip to Florida, lockdown meant she was suddenly in the solitary of her apartment unleashing ‘the avalanche inside’.
Where 2017’s Reaching for Indigo lurked in gothic shadows, -io also – musically at least – bursts with flashes of expansive light. The scene is set by stirring instrumental opener, Tonglen In Vain, which swells to a cinematic climax – before launching into Vanishing‘s imposing strings.
But -io never settles into a groove, as Fohr continues to move the prism. Twisting and turning, every song is very much its own entity: the propulsive percussion of Dogma clashes with the spoken word Kate Bush-isms of The Chase; while the theatrical drones of Walking Towards Winter juxtapose the bright acoustic guitar that underpins Oracle Song. It’s a heavy 41 minutes that demands attention – each song a reflective take on grief, pain, isolation, society and space. But despite the magnitude of the arrangements, Fohr’s voice – which was clearly an influence on Anna B. Savage’s A Common Turn – is the anchor from which the songs hang.
For the album’s stunning cover, Fohr had to put herself out of her comfort zone as she repeatedly launched herself from a nine foot height in order to capture the image of her falling. In embracing another form of discomfort to write and produce -io, she has climbed to the pinnacle of her career to date.
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