|Circuit des Yeux — Overdue (2013)|
Circuit des Yeux — Overdue
Location: Lafayette, Indiana ~ Chicago, IL ~ Bloomington, IN
STYLES: psychedelia, acid folk, punk-folk
Album release: October 1, 2013
Record Label: Ba Da Bing! / Lewis & Lynn
01. Lithonia 4:21
02. Hegira 3:23
03. Nova 88 4:08
04. Acarina 6:28
05. Bud & Gin 7:20
06. My Name is Rune 5:10
07. I Am 3:34
08. Some Day 6:08
09. Helen You Bitch 8:42
OTHERS: CDY3, Judy Henske, Kendra Smith, Smog
★ A few artists have had studios built for themselves — Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios a notable example — but certainly few albums have had studios built for them. Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr and Cave’s Cooper Crain erected U.S.A. Studios in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood over a few weeks in January 2013 for the two months of recording sessions that make up Overdue. Founded with the acquisition of a one-inch Otari MX-70 tape deck(moved to 8 track) and a vacancy in a friend's apartment, the studio endured hundreds of hours over its brief flash of life. Fohr’s 5th LP under the name Circuit des Yeux (her fourth to see release), weaves a sonic bildungsroman, documenting the transition from collegiate cloister in pastoral Bloomington, Indiana to the noisy, haggard Chicago South Side. Even with the hand-constructed baffles and grandmother-sourced quilts thickly covering the walls (and, intermittently, a light crust of sloppy snow), the sounds of Little Village are literally embedded in the recording. The strains of nearby norteños pierce the floorboards and the elevated trains murmur just a few dozen feet from U.S.A. Studios’ flawed sanctuary. ★ The songs rise above the din, however… full orchestrations (“Lithonia”) and damaged hallucinations (“Acarina”) alike. Fans of Fohr’s prior, more experimental work are not catered to with this immeasurably more sophisticated new effort… but nor will they, or any other listener, be disappointed.
By Marc Masters; October 31, 2013; Score: 7.2
★ Haley Fohr knows how to dirge. There’s usually some darkness in the music she makes as Circuit Des Yeux, and often a lot of it. Drop your needle anywhere within her discography and even the most upbeat songs sound deadly serious. Her early records sometimes distanced that somber tone with thick distortion or hissy echo, which added mystery. But over time her work has become clearer, and Overdue, her fourth full-length, is the most direct, immediate record she’s made. It’s also her best.
★ That’s because increased clarity reveals how many ways Fohr can hit the same emotional target. There’s variety in the instrumentation: dramatic, string-like synths, bittersweet acoustic strums, grinding electric guitars, and all kinds of rhythmic foundations. There’s also variety in her voice, which echoes the melancholy warble of Antony, the goth-howl of Diamanda Galás, and the chilly authority of Nico. But she also has a unique way of turning every phrase dark. It’s hard to imagine anyone else making a casual line like “rollin’ in my Nova 88” sound so grave.
★ That line shows the variety of lyrical angles Fohr is willing to take, trusting that a committed approach can add weight to any sentiment. She’s right: every couplet and stanza on Overdue is forceful, no matter what Fohr’s singing about. Roughly half the songs are sung in second person, giving them a fateful hue. “When your body leaves you/ You won’t need anything to hold onto,” she sings in “Hegira”, as if she’s a god reporting the future. The rest use first person, suggesting Fohr’s a victim of the same fate she just foretold. “Who has learned to bleed my innards?/ Who has given me the deepest winters?” she sings in the slow, minimal “Acarina”, over music that sounds like Body/Head covering Low. Those and many of Fohr’s words dodge literal interpretation, dislocated from whatever specific scenarios inspired them. But there is one couplet that seems like a clear statement of intent: “If the truth sets you free/ I’d rather be living in my dreams.”
★ Each song on Overdue feels like a lived-in dream — not just in its hypnotic, voice-in-head sound, but also in the way Fohr builds atmosphere like a sonic set designer. Gradually, details accumulate and an internal logic takes over. Sometimes this comes from simple increases in activity, as instruments rise toward mutual climaxes. But in other spots the ascent is sneakier, taking you places before you know it. Take “Bud & Gin”, whose folky lilt feels repetitive, but eventually — with the help of Fohr’s ambient moans — traverses a range of moods. At the end, she literally rewinds the song, as if she’s become so caught up in it that the only way to find her footing is to retrace her steps.
★ Such wanderings may make Overdue sound like heavy going, and certainly much of it is. But Fohr puts so much power behind her music that following her into the emotional depths can be intoxicating, and even life-affirming. After all, one of the best things art can do is make you feel something, whatever that something may be. On Overdue, Haley Fohr is more than up to that task.
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★ Portrait (07/01/11)
★ CD3 (01/04/13)
★ Overdue (10/01/13)
By CLIFFORD ALLEN; Score: ★★★★★
★ The last few years have seen an extraordinary amount of growth for singer-songwriter Haley Fohr, known by her nom de plume Circuit Des Yeux. She relocated from Bloomington, Indiana to Chicago in 2011 and has worked as an audio engineer in addition to fine-tuning her compositional landscape. The Circuit Des Yeux moniker has always signified a dark, homespun, and somewhat harsh approach to psychedelic music, Fohr’s soaring alto, piano and tin-can guitar swathed in electronic hum, reverb, and jabs of white-hot noise. Yet across three De Stijl LPs and a pair of seven-inch singles, her music gradually became more majestic. Not only was this a sign of conceptual refinement, but of the young Fohr growing into her art. All of this work was constructed solo, though in 2011 she began working with a short-lived trio called CDY3 (which released an EP on Magnetic South earlier this year), which was an opportunity to hear her music in an expansive light. Even in that context, it was really all about Fohr’s approach as a performer — forthright excavations supported by punkish clamor.
★ While Fohr seems to work best “alone in the studio” (to reference her recent touring partner Bill Callahan), her latest LP Overdue (self-released on vinyl and issued via Ba Da Bing! on CD) is in part a collaborative effort with Cave’s Cooper Crain, who engineered the record in addition to contributing additional synthesizers and percussion. Across eight pieces, Fohr and Crain are joined by the drums of Dan Quinlivan, John Dawson, and Tyler Damon, and guitarists Joe Wetteroth and Greg Simpson, making this record massive when it needs to be. Other Chicago names brought into play are Rob Sevier (additional lyrics on “Acarina”) and University of Chicago-schooled composer Estlin Usher (string arrangements on “Lithonia”).
★ The fact that the album starts off with a piece for string quartet and piano signals a significant change in the CDY arc; “Lithonia” had been a tense and squalling tune in its CDY3 incarnation, but Fohr’s voice is supple and wheeling, set against Usher’s glorious and meaty string introduction. When the chorus appears as a paisley anthem undercut by thin and jittery guitar and Fohr belts out “Doesn’t it feel grand/ To have that lottery ticket in your hand/ And to have a second chance,” her earnestness is powerful and believably simple. That’s not to say that she doesn’t allow the murk to raise its head on occasion — “Hegira” is a wintery loner-folk rejoinder, staring into brackish liquid with sallying sleaze amid canned, Smog-like synth orchestration. The stark, minimal waves of crash, toms, and fuzzed-out guitar propel the following “Nova 88” into a backwater of sizable proportions, Fohr’s Kendra Smith-like cry scratching its way out of electrified fabric.
★ Following the surreal cackle and terse lope of the darkly trippy “Acarina” (sic, taking its name from the transverse/vessel flute heard in musics of the far east and South America) that closes the first side, the flip opens with the driving, interwoven guitars of “Bud & Gin,” wordless distant wails and a grungy march among the few things differentiating it from a Davy Graham throwback, closing with pensive tape manipulations and synth washes. Throaty vibrato and muscular, deliberate diction mark “My Name Is Rune,” Fohr’s operatic voice in heavy contrast with the more enclosed acid-folk textures that back her up in an incredibly deep and unsettlingly insistent performance. There are still vestiges of earlier music in a sense, but they are refined — the Confusion is Sex ritual of the closing “Some Day” is as yelping and noisy as anything Fohr has done, maximizing dirty-needle distortion and guttural dog barks, but crisply recorded and with symphonic mass, it carries much more weight and perhaps even more value.
★ Overdue is an appropriate title for a number of reasons; it’s been a few years since she recorded a solo album, but what it may indicate more is that this is the record we thought she had in her, but had yet to deliver. That’s not a slight against her earlier work, which was captivating insofar as it marked steps on the way somewhere while generating a serious vibe. Live, she’s always been a force to be reckoned with, but that was rarely captured on disc. Now there is a record that rivals her in-the-flesh power but has its own distinct being, and is as nuanced, personal, and unbridled as one could hope for. Masterpiece is a word perhaps overused and unfairly canonizing, but Overdue will surely hold itself up alongside such lasting works as Farewell Aldebaran (Henske-Yester), Happy Nightmare Baby (Opal), and Julius Caesar (Smog). Haley Fohr has created a truly extraordinary work, giving primal urgency and bare expressionism a decidedly structured sensibility without losing any of its force. (http://www.tinymixtapes.com/)
|Circuit des Yeux — Overdue (2013)|