Agitated Atmosphere: Circuit Des Yeux - In Plain Speech

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
05/01/2015
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Circuit Des Yeux .Transition is such a tricky notion. Sometimes it’s full-on, Kafka-esque. Often it’s subtle - a slow change - unveiling itself at a later stage.

Haley Fohr, known as Circuit Des Yeux, has long spun a cocoon around her work. It began at an early age, where a girl tapped into the pain and angst of longing for the tangible and invisible. She spoke more knowledge than people twice her age in the highest offices of power. As youth is wont to do, she went to colleges and found herself within her music and a budding, supportive community. When she was growing most comfortable with this identity, she cast it off again at the edge of adulthood and headed to Chicago. Solos, trios and hangers-on alike all contributed to the many metamorphoses of the CDY name.

In Plain Speech is not Fohr’s first Chicago-based release, but it’s the first to be heavily influenced by the new community she’s found. For better (and rarely for worse), In Plain Speech is the beginning a completely new phase of Fohr’s careful study of music. It’s a laborious affair, often more challenging with each listening rather than yielding to instant gratification. Its cocoon so tightly wound and opaque, no one is sure what transformation Fohr or her CDY nom de plume is taking.

What is known is Fohr has finally realized her voice is the most powerful instrument in her arsenal. It’s always hung from her work as an equal to her sparse melodies and thrusting guitar. But much like Scott Walker before her, it’s becoming the impetus for the work surrounding it the further she falls away from the music that first introduced her to the world. She’s maturing and with it, so is her work.

In Plain Speech is rightly about Fohr’s deep, booming vocals. Sometimes to ill effect but often in service of that beautiful howl. Yet it’s the experimentation where Fohr’s latest is exciting. “Dream of TV” is a highlight of the marriage of outrageous composition and Fohr’s versatile voice. “Do the Dishes” rides the adrenaline of her work with Jaime Fennelly’s Mind Over Mirrors; a hurdy gurdy melody highlighting the similar qualities in her intonation.

What is on display is that Fohr’s voice has outgrown her old stomping grounds. “Fantasize the Scene” and “A Story of This World” are more in line with Fohr’s first few CDY releases but her deeper, darker voice doesn’t seem to fit. It overpowers the beautiful melodies, cutting through the fragile envelope of her youth.

Yet In Plain Speech is a glorious roar – a chrysalis of a more confident, fearless Fohr. Whether it is signals a transition to a more orchestral and composed epoch in the life of CDY is up in the air, swinging in the breeze on a branch. But should Fohr emerge and spread these wings to fly away, In Plain Speech will be but the first splash of spring color to mark a new life.

Justin Spicer is an editor and journalist who writes for Tiny Mix Tapes and Ad Hoc among others. You can find him on Twitter.

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