On the late afternoon of Friday, 30 June 1559 a long splinter of wood from a jousting lance pierced the eye and brain of King Henry II of France. Thus begins the tale of Haley Fohr. In 2007, a 17-year-old Haley Fohr resided in a partially-abandoned hous...
On the late afternoon of Friday, 30 June 1559 a long splinter of wood from a jousting lance pierced the eye and brain of King Henry II of France. Thus begins the tale of Haley Fohr. In 2007, a 17-year-old Haley Fohr resided in a partially-abandoned house littered with instruments discarded by a local degenerate crustpunk act. On her friend Katie Leming's first day on the job at a bank, the branch was robbed and she sought solace from the experience in the primitive thump of her drum set of stolen freestanding drums. Haley Fohr picked up an electric guitar for the first time since a creepy guitar instructor vibed her out in the eighth grade and the pair channeled mutual disillusionment into a monster subbasement sludge rock sound. Katie already had designs to form a project called Cromagnon Woman. Dropping the "Woman" from the no-longer-solo project, Cromagnon was born. The autodidactic duo was on the road within a few weeks, picking up shows in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia and New York. Both Haley and Katie channeled their fecund creativity into solo projects before Cromagnon even managed to record. Haley Fohr launched Circuit des Yeux [named for the nerve in the eye that supplies power to the act of seeing] in 2008 with a set of noise bursts and blown out dirges called Syphone that make Les Rallizes Desnudes sound as eager and commercial as Steely Dan. Prominent experimental rock label DeStijl took interest after Fohr traded her CD-Rs with punk bands, DIY label owners, and other degenerates, and issued a short run of the document. Cromagnon was still stomping along, finally cutting some recordings that veered toward accessibility. Their first recordings, cut on a pink Fostex four-track, appeared on a compilation with Zola Jesus, U.S. Girls, Bird (Katie's solo act), Luxury Prevention, and... Circuit des Yeux. The first Circuit des Yeux performances were objectively crude, armed with merely a Yamaha keyboard, cassette player, and tom.
The next few years, 2009 and 2011, saw Cromagnon issue one 7" and dissolve (even after demos for a full-length had been executed) and Circuit des Yeux develop into a self-sustaining solo act. The DeStijl release of Symphone was followed by a 2nd, drastically more accomplished full length in 2009 [Sirenum] and a 7" in 2010, both for the label. Demand was not sated, and a 7" on Houston's ephemeral Dull Knife imprint and an EP on Night Tapes both burst forth in 2010 as well. Another giant leap forward for Fohr's Circuit des Yeux project came in the form of a move to Bloomington to matriculate in the selective Recording Arts program at IU. 2011's Portrait, also bearing the DeStijl imprimatur, demonstrates both her experimental innovations and the gravity of academic training. The sound vacillates seamlessly between lo-fi and effortless-sounding songwriting sophistication. Touring heavily in the Midwest and Eastern Seaboard, including a blockbuster performance at CMJ with a full band, helped make Portrait one of the label's heavier sellers. The combination of folk chanteuse and noise maven was attractive both as a live act and recording artist. With the exception of a few bits of flotsam, Circuit des Yeux has been largely quiet since Portrait's release, raising the bar again with an even more elaborate presentation.
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(moded 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. While Fohr has played literally hundreds of shows in the last two years, Overdue will be her first release. Tours with Bill Callahan and a top-line spot at Finland's FlowFest top off 2013's long list of accomplishments. Having parted ways with DeStijl, this will be both her most DIY affair... but also her finest and most anticipated work.