Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights
Movie Theatre Haiku
Produced by Chris Robley and Jeff Stuart Saltzman | Recorded and engineered by Mike Coykendall at Blue Room Studios in Portland and Rob Stroup at 8 Ball Studios in Portland | Mastered by Jeff Stuart Saltzman
Chris Robley is one musician who likes to go big. The Portland singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist conducts a bona fide pop-rock orchestra on his third album, Movie Theatre Haiku, a cinematic musical experience that incorporates numerous genres and instrumental layers, theatrical vocals and lyrics, and enough hooks to prove his innate songwriting talent.
Robley melds his classically trained background with the gamut of modern genres so no two songs on the album sound alike. For starters, along with his backing band, the Fear of Heights, he weaves in just about every instrument but the kitchen sink: violas, clarinets, trumpets and theremin mingle with electric guitars, piano, bass and drums. Some tracks resurrect the pop largess of The Beatles (“User-Friendly Guide to Change”) or stunning folk-rock melodies (the standout “Baltimore Fugitives Buried in Brownsville, TX”), and still others might conjure electronic beats that sound straight out of an Atari video game (“The Late, Great Age of Paper (haiku #2)”), showing that Robley has some experimental tricks up his sleeve.
Perhaps the grandest instrument, however, is Robley’s voice, which he uses to full effect, singing out so loud and clear, as on “My Life in Film Festivals (haiku #1),” that one could easily imagine him the star of a rock opera. Paired with ambitious lyrics, such as on “Atheist’s Prayer” (“God is great/God is good/God is something I/ never understood”), Robley heightens the drama even more.
Robley is a spirited musical presence, and Movie Theatre Haiku, an ambitious work. If that isn’t convincing enough for a listen, not too many artists these days have the cojones to rock the kazoo. It’s nice to know that someone out there is actually having a little fun with music.
(Cutthroat Pop Records)