Live performance and recorded music are — especially in rock and pop music — entirely too divorced. To be fair, live performance and studio recordings offer entirely different parameters that musicians can take advantage of (and have for many years); that’s why something like the two-LP set of Cream’s Wheels of Fire is so monumental in terms of presenting distinct worlds. And it’s always kind of frustrating when a band that’s really got a certain live dynamic isn’t properly captured on record. Take, for instance, CDY3, a studio recording that sees Haley Fohr (Circuit des Yeux) collaborating with guitarist Greg Simpson and drummer Clarke Joyner. Distinct in spirit from Fohr’s studio recordings, there is nevertheless a shared affinity between Circuit des Yeux and CDY3 in terms of her singular power as a vessel/song-conjurer/young revenant. CDY3 has developed along the lines of post-no-wave noise-rock into a cathartic and writhing shakedown that, in performance, often ends up with Fohr in a screaming heap onstage surrounded by feedback. Naturally, that doesn’t translate to wax, but one would hope for an equally compelling consolation prize.
CDY3 presents three studio tunes recorded at Magnetic South (“Capturing the grittiest, most far out sounds in the hills of Southern Indiana since 2008”), including a full-band variant of Circuit des Yeux’s “I’m On Fire” (a cover of Bruce Springsteen from the excellent Portrait LP on De Stijl) and two pieces that seem specific to this group. Initially intended as a single, Fohr chose to release it as a 10-incher, harking back to the garage-rock section of favorite mid-90s record stores. “Lithonia” starts the first side, distant and somewhat lo-fi in its loping strums and ghostly feedback, Fohr’s throaty and magnificent wail building from austere tension to near-grandeur. The tune’s vocal majesty does peek through the din, but one can only glean a palimpsest of what that actually feels like. The monolithic, almost oppressive stomp of “I’m On Fire II” is rendered with a somewhat lesser sludge-rock feel that doesn’t entirely capture the tune’s anthemic obsessiveness, even with the volume cranked. I’m not usually one to complain about fidelity — the intent is clear and that’s what’s most important — but even as Fohr’s voice cuts through, the recording is somewhat flat and missing the requisite hugeness. Instead of building into an unsettling mass of feedback and pedal skree, those elements just drag out in a way that seems antithetical to the piece’s surly, chant-like drive.
“Helen You Bitch” takes up the second side, tape collage and isolated filmic vocal snippets gradually falling away to reveal intertwined bottom-range grit and lilting, primal tom rhythms. Minus Fohr’s vocals, it seems a little absent, despite having its own distinct weight. It’s a shame that CDY3 doesn’t have the heft of the trio’s live performance, and a fair amount of the blame can be placed on recording quality, which just doesn’t do the music any favors. Knowing Fohr’s dynamism and the fact that as a band they are extremely strong in performance makes this set something of a disappointment. The crux is that if one hasn’t experienced Circuit des Yeux’s live incarnation in any other way, it’s a solid representation — but that’s not enough for everyone else.