Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights – Movie Theatre Haiku

Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights - Movie Theatre Haiku

Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights - Movie Theatre Haiku

Movie Theatre Haiku marks Chris Robley & The Fear of Heights’ third album, another book in their series of heartbreak and mystery.  These new chapters follow characters through journeys into darkness with the optimism shrinking and the anxiety level rising, as their lense on the world becomes narrower as time progresses. 

Like a mime slowly making it’s way onto the stage, hands up and feeling around the edges of some sort of imaginary room to get their bearings, “A Memory Lost at Sea” starts up with seemingly random sounds of percussion that begin to fall into a rhythm just as a saxaphone starts belting out notes.  Almost immediately the rest of the band follows and it sounds like the fumbling mime was joined by a line of burlesque dancers and they’ve got him surrounded.  Interestingly enough, the  subtitle to the album is aptly named “A Masque of Backwards Ballads, a Picturesque Burlesque”.   

Just as one might not imagine a mime put on the same stage with burlesque dancers, but would imagine it interesting, Movie Theater Haiku mixes styles and interesting instruments in ways to keep the listener engaged all the way to the final track.  Key and tempo changes also keep the listener on their toes, wondering what will happen next. Yet, given all range from epic choruses to an expressive singular voice and moments of minimal layers versus orchestral grandeur and instrumental diversity, the album maintains a cohesiveness throughout that keep them all laced up in the same story. Each song follows a similar theme within the lyrics like in “Sollipsist in Love” were Robley’s voice proclaims that “it’s hard to believe things outside of my head”, a continuing trend heard throughout.

Chris Robley describes the characters moving through the album as being “lost in this kind of confined space.  They fumble in the darkness to feel the four walls closing in on them.  They must measure distances in a shrinking world to find their way out.”   In “Glass Reich”, an instrumental track nearing the end, the angular sounds make me think of what it be like to be lost in a room full of cracked mirrors with no indication of a doorway and just feeling washed over with sheer panic as the stress level rises.  This is a stark constrast from the instrumental track earlier on which packs a more determined attitude.

Despite the intense emotions provoked by the artist, Robley manages to keep everything centered around quality music and intelligently written lyrics that are enjoyable and worth listening to.  In tracks like “Baltimore Fugitives Buried in Brownsville, TX” guitar finger picking and an intense tone are instantly catchy as the tale unfolds with Robley’s vocals taking on a more breathy style.  In “Sollipsist in Love” an intense electronic beat fused with piano always sticks with me long after I’ve finished listening to the album.  The somewhat strange and interesting instruments and tones fused in this song work really well and go perfectly with the harmonized vocals.

The penultimate track, “Permanent Fixtures of Regret” features dreamlike washes of flutes over acoustic guitar which could be viewed as either the listener giving up and accepting their fate or having found the way out.  But then the album closer “Waltz for Angelika Dittrich” closes the curtain with a huried waltz beat with jittery piano and instead of feeling like a goal has been reached, the listener is left more with a high level of anxiety after completing the journey but not at all accomplished. 

Robley and the Fear of Heights doesn’t want to wrap it up all nice and pretty. Instead they create that emotional response that makes you crave the resolve, like a great movie that ends dramatically but still leaves you with questions floating around in your head.  

Cutthroat Pop Records