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LIVE REPORT: Circuit Des Yeux
Patrick Clarke , February 20th, 2018 12:36

Pummelling and plaintive - an extraordinary show from a master of her craft.

It can be a little difficult to review Circuit Des Yeux without breaking into the kind of adjectives and superlatives so often used that they’ve been driven to redundancy. Haley Fohr and her band are transcendent, sure, it’s hypnotic, it’s deep, and it’s powerfully soulful, but it must be stressed just quite how so. Her set is not just transcendent, it’s the epitome of transcendence in a live performance.

Before Fohr appears on stage, The Lexington soundsystem plays soothing classical music. One audience member is reading a novel to pass the time. Fohr, double bassist Andrew Scott Young and drummer Tyler Damon walk on stage to a tranquil atmosphere, a blank slate. There is no applause until she orders all of the house lights cut; there’s a faint glow from the DJ booth and a single deliberate beam of light to her right illuminates her. The beam is cut in half by an amp, so she casts a huge uncanny shadow over a psychedelic background projection, a distorted human frame with only one limb, a guitar with a body but no neck.

In this eerie, uncanny atmosphere, she begins. Before the show I interviewed Fohr for her Baker’s Dozen, and in discussing the 13 albums that shaped her she spoke much about her fascination with artists who explore hitherto unknown territory for the human voice when they perform live - artists like Linda Sharrock, for example. It’s a tradition she sits perfectly within, her voice veering from low, simmering intensity to gigantic blasts of pure power, driving and riding the crests of looping and mesmeric music.

‘Paper Bag’ is the unparalleled peak of Circuit Des Yeux’s most recent album, last autumn’s Reaching For Indigo, and of her live performance. But while the recorded version beguiles by increment, with a certain restraint and a gentle build, on stage the song grows further and further until Fohr stands at the helm of an almighty cyclone, her voice cast forward with tremendous, uncompromising power. ‘Black Fly’, another standout from Reaching For Indigo is similarly bolstered, its romantic swoons of 12-string guitar lent new vigour by the drums of Damon. It swells beyond its usual reaches into a territory that’s almost unnatural, and is quite staggeringly beautiful.

The set is a short one – the threesome departs after less than an hour – but feels perfectly weighted. It does not end with a bang, the encore finds them on plaintive and spacious form, like the slow but eager breaths in the aftermath of some pummelling exercise. Circuit Des Yeux’s live show is a fine piece indeed, with moments of serene bliss and others of stampeding intensity, led from one emotional zenith to the next with the dab hand of a true master of her craft. They play more UK dates later this year; go see.