Circuit des Yeux, the project of Indiana's singer-songwriter Haley Fohr,
debuted with Symphone (De Stijl, 2008).
Sirenum (De Stijl, 2009) was as poorly recorded as its predecessor
but enough surfaced from the fog to be called "a vision".
In general, these are lullabies wrapped in eccentric pseudo-psychedelic noise,
but it's difficult to hear the lullaby in the noise.
The horrible electronics and wild-beast vocals of The First Day evoke
a Diamanda Galas locked in a basement.
Visions boasts dissonant John Cage-esque piano duetting with found
The ghostly hissing litany Folk II and
the otherworldly chant A Siren could be highlights.
The most regular song,
not counting the acoustic Serenade To Sophia, is
Paranoid, whose rhythm is a clock-like beat, but it is
swallowed by a black hole of sharp noise.
This sounds like a Kendra Smith apprentice.
After the three-song EP Ode to Fidelity (2010), the mini-album
Portrait (De Stijl, 2011) only contains six songs,
not counting the live cover of Bruce Springsteen's I'm on Fire,
and much better recorded.
She sings like in an operatic manner over the funereal drone and martial beat of
Falling Out, like a Nico of the gutters.
The album spans a broad range of styles:
3311 is a simple folk tune, while Crying Chain is a
warped electronic experiment and
101 Ways To Kill A Mom is a tense narrative.
But too much feels unfinished, incomplete.
In 2012 Fohr graduated from college and moved to Chicago, where she
recorded the EP CDY3 (Magnetic South, 2013), containing the first,
abrasive version of Lithonia,
with bassist Greg Simpson and drummer Clarke Joyner, and then the album
Overdue (Ba Da Bing, 2013), de facto a collaboration with keyboardist Cooper Crain of Cave.
The quality of the songs varies greatly. Some sound, as usual, like sketches,
with endings that don't quite do justice to the ideas.
If the Bjork-ian chamber lied Lithonia
the Kendra Smith-ian
psychedelic elegy Hegira is criminally washed away by new-age synths,
and the slow, gothic litany Nova 88 is wrapped in a facile tidal distortion.
On the other hand the second half of the album delivers some gems.
The psychedelic chant over mechanical rhythm of Acarina slowly disintegrating in a spectral landscape.
The slow hypnotic seven-minute dance Bud & Gin turns to transcendental fingerpicking and chanting a` la Robbie Basho.
The operatic folk hymn My Name Is Rune and the garage rave-up I Am
are the appetizers for the standout, the
intoxicated crescendo of Some Day, a cross between
and a melismatic Sufi preacher singing White Rabbitt with the rhythm
section of the Velvet Underground.
By the standards of their humble arrangements, In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey, 2015) is a symphonic work.
If the operatic lied Do The Dishes, with a rather lame appropriation of
Terry Riley's minimalist organ patterns,
does not amount to much, the melismatic virtuoso show of
Ride Blind, with galloping hand drums and driving strings,
creates a truly disorienting atmosphere.
She seems to embrace a more traditional format with
Fantasize The Scene, reminiscent of prog-rock ballads of the 1970s.
The arrangements are beyond eccentric, and sometimes take up too much of her
The eight-minute instrumental Dream Of TV opens with pizzicato violins and tinkling marimbas, then transitions to distorted synth drones and flute drones, then to sampled wordless chants and hand drums, and finally ends with a funereal guitar rhythm and a "stoned" om. By the end of the eight minutes it is not
clear what it has accomplished.
It is followed by another instrumental, the brief Guitar Knife, that simply indulges in a sinister Chinese dance.
The seven-minute A Story Of This World is a simple folk ballad that
becomes a lengthy sonata for flute and bass clarinet.
The album wastes her vocal skills and spends too much time trying to create
Meanwhile, she had launched a second career as folk singer
Jackie Lynn with Jackie Lynn (Thrill Jockey, 2016), a
semi-autobiographical concept album.
Most of the songs are simple tunes sung in a more traditional register,
dressed up with a bit of electronics and guitar, like Bright Lights.
Circuit des Yeux returned with the eight songs of
Reaching for Indigo (Drag City, 2017).
Her operatic vocals are best employed in
the plaintive elegy with trombone of Brainshift
and in the rousing lied Philo with piano and strings.
Alas, the arrangements remain the problem.
In the seven-minute Black Fly her voice collides with (and succumbs from) an instrumental base that has a life of its own, and not a particularly exciting one.
Paper Bag seems to mock Terry Riley-ian minimalism for two minutes before turning into a rather simple folk-rock tune.
The chamber arrangement of A Story Of This World Part II is sleep inducing: only in the last two minutes her voice comes out like a force of nature, in one of her best Diamanda Galas impersonations.
And all the strings in the world cannot salvage the tedious closer,
Reaching For Indigo - Gaia Infinitus (2019) documents a live performance.
Her alter-ego Jackie Lynn returned with
Jacqueline (Drag City, 2020), her most commercial album yet,
a slick production of dancefloor-ready hummable pop ditties.
At best the seven-minute
Odessa sounds like
Laurie Anderson remixed by
The 1970s-esque power-pop singalong of Shugar Water sounds a collaboration between Abba and Cheap Trick.
Casino Queen begins like a dance-pop hit of Depeche Mode and ends like a Yellow Magic Orchestra novelty of the 1970s.
From the astral syncopated funk-soul of Diamond Glue
to the bombastic aria of Short Black Dress
this is a nostalgic trip back in time.