"I'm sending languages/ secret messages," Sam Phillips acknowledges on "Fan Dance"'s "Soul Eclipse." No kidding. Although Phillips has tended to work on a big canvas -- the mysteries of faith and love, a search for "beauty and the truth I can breathe like air" -- she and husband/producer T-Bone Burnett have crafted something starkly different in "Fan Dance," a dreamy, intimate conversation in which you're never quite sure what she's saying but utterly beguiled by how it's said.
Lyrically, Phillips is downright cryptic on Fan Dance, stringing together images that obscure and evoke. Burnett outfits the tracks sparely but tautly, often balancing the vocals against a dominant musical element to bring Phillips' insinuating melodies to the fore (Van Dyke Parks' terse cello arrangement in "Wasting My Time," stabs of fuzz tone in the quietly disquieting "Soul Eclipse"). The effect is cumulative and intoxicating.