Circuit des Yeux Portrait

[De Stijl; 2011]

Styles: psychedelic
Others: Cro Magnon, White Magic, Magik Markers, Catherine Ribeiro, Opal

Lafayette, Indiana’s Haley Fohr (via her nom-de-plume, Circuit Des Yeux) seemed to come out of nowhere with her first LP of stark audio collage, released in 2008 as Symphone on De Stijl and an accompanying self-released cassette, Mary. After that came Sirenum, her follow-up LP, along with a scattering of compilation tracks and singles (not to mention recordings as Cro Magnon). And now we have Portrait, quite possibly her most fully realized work yet.

In fact, Portrait could cement her status as a psychedelic ingénue for the coming decade. At 8 tracks and 25 minutes in length, the LP has a brevity that might actually strengthen its impact, much like the brief but extraordinary salvos of free music and agit-folk that graced the ESP-Disk’ catalog in the mid-1960s. It seemed as though it took until the “Ode to Fidelity” single for her songwriting capabilities to take hold — burying compelling tunes within layers of 4-track whir and disjointed soundscapes was her mode of working — but at this point, it’s pretty clear that Fohr is an excellent tunesmith of scuzzy Midwestern psych-folk wrangle.

Whether or not points of reference like Catherine Ribiero, Judy Henske, Kendra Smith, and Patti Smith serve as valuable, it’s difficult not to think of those figures when listening to the closing live performance of “I’m on Fire,” Fohr’s voice twisting out both a bohemian stomp and operatic wail, slicing through a wall of feedback and chunky, rugged strums. If the words are tough to determine, her evocation of them is between a scream and a massive-vibrato lament, rending and beseeching and absolutely beautiful. Following a sampled missive on the blues (which Circuit des Yeux is not — not really), the LP opens into the low-slung electronic drone of “Falling Out,” electric organ and bass coagulating into a time-passing monolith as bright guitar strums and Fohr’s mountaintop wail bring the tune up out of the murk. “3311” relies primarily on a stark, mildly out-of-tune piano line and acoustic strum to paint a workmanlike, wintry ballad of the sort White Magic might have employed in their heyday, slowly buried in wiry electricity.

Fohr’s electronic compositions also seem to have a bit more heft as well — the loops, murmurs, and bent sonic mirrors of “Crying Chair” are far from a mid-disc afterthought, rather creating tense atmospheres rooted in metronomic pulse. That hangdog minimalism continues on “Twenty & Dry,” gorgeously dark and vibrato-heavy contralto sailing over tinny guitar fuzz; while she may be weaving a missive with her words, it’s quite easy to get lost in the overall texture. “101 Ways to Kill a Man” draws from blue collar paeans of the likes of Nebraska, but wrapped in Marble Index-like gauze and culminating in an ascendant siren song.

From the eight pieces on Portrait, it’s quite easy to see that this latest from Fohr’s Circuit des Yeux is light years ahead of past work and could quite easily find a place in the weighty pantheon of modern psychedelic music. Hopefully there’s more than just a Desert Shore around the corner.

Links: Circuit des Yeux - De Stijl

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