Full Disclosure: I was lured to the Circuit Des Yeux show, not from a deep appreciation and in-depth knowledge of Haley Fohr’s peculiar brand of music, but rather by a rave Pitchfork review, recognition of the musicians from Bitchin’ Bajas (who play with her on the newest album), and an affinity for experimental folk music, a genre which her records are quickly swept under, seemingly as a default.
Around 9:59 PM on Friday, February 9th I was stepping up from my cross-legged position on the Kantine Am Berghain floor ready to put on my coat and go. I’d misunderstood the start time of the show, there’d been a very long interact since the opener, whose performance, carried out mostly from behind a synth and though pleasantly atmospheric, was not doing much to enliven me.
Then suddenly, Haley Fohr aka Circuit Des Yeux came out in a long satin-y pink robe with two musicians following suit and the room went dark.
playing the album’s first song “Brainshift” in almost complete darkness, psychedelic visuals and smooth cello in tow
I’d been relatively unconvinced by what I’d heard of Reaching for Indigo, her newest venture, concluding it was “not my cup of tea”, but as soon as she started playing the album’s first song “Brainshift” in almost complete darkness, psychedelic visuals and smooth cello in tow, I was intrigued to say the least.
The feeling from the mostly North American crowd seemed mutual. “It’s so dark,” I heard from behind me, and “I LOVE her outfit.” The song concluded with vivid instrumentals and Fohr extending her hands eerily in high priestess fashion.
serious Velvet Underground circa Nico vibes
She then picked up the guitar and dove into “Black Fly”, wailing with her powerful baritone voice right into the third song of the set. Combined with all three musicians (Fohr included) shrouded in darkness, the trippy projections, experimental wind-instrument playing, this is about the time I started to get serious Velvet Underground circa Nico vibes.
The powerful wailing and instrumental psych freakouts continued throughout the set with zero words to the audience and only a quick mic check of “CH” between songs, increasingly adding to the mystique.
the psychedelic rock vibes were exponentially augmented when CDY launched into Paper Bag
Later the psychedelic rock vibes were exponentially augmented when CDY launched into Paper Bag, beginning with a slow instrumental buildup, screech into the mic and launch of a groovy happy 60’s counter-counter culture-like tune, the music getting increasingly frantic over the course of 7 or so minutes.
The performance was exhilarating and I was also beginning to tie some comparisons to Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane in my mind.
slow battle-field drumming and escalated to Fohr screaming notes
For the last song of the short set, Fohr finally addressed the crowd only to introduce the other musicians and inform us they had “one more”. This one started with slow battle-field drumming and escalated to Fohr screaming notes that sounded somewhere between a sea creature and Tarzan for a minute straight, concluded with another instrumental freakout.
Circuit Des Yeux left the stage and were called back for an encore.
wish we had more for you…but we don’t
“Ok one more,” Haley Fohr said, “wish we had more for you…but we don’t.” “SO cool,” someone said giddily. Then played an update on a classic-sounding folky ballad and walked off the stage.
The whole affair felt very Rock’ n’ Roll in the best way possible. All the right elements of psych-folk were present with enough innovation, minimalism and mystery to keep it going into the cheesy territory a lot of neo-psych bands tend to fall into. The entirety of Haley Fohr’s glorious weirdo character was on display without it feeling in any way deliberate, which was a pleasure to watch.
Truly a breath-taking show that felt like witnessing a significant moment in time.
Photo by Camille Haimet.