Circuit Des Yeux, wailing over the pounding drums, had the tenacity and passion of a war general running head first into battle.

11/13/17 – Great Scott

In May of 2017, I went to an Animal Collective show at Brooklyn Steel in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They were in the middle of a US tour selling out large capacity rooms. It didn’t occur to me until I was standing in the general admission area that I didn’t know who was opening the show. There wasn’t another band listed on the ticket stub.

A woman appeared on the stage with a twelve string guitar. All of the stage lights were behind her facing the crowd, and her shoulder length, dark hair completely covered her face. When she sang, she howled, her mouth the only visible feature on her face. She was an apparition. I found out later that she performed under the moniker Circuit des Yeux.

On November 13th, Circuit des Yeux, real name Haley Fohr, was billed at Allston’s Great Scott in support of her transformative new album, Reaching For Indigo. Ka Baird, a New York based experimental multi-instrumentalist and tour support for Circuit des Yeux, took the stage at around 10 PM.

Baird’s set was a forty minute exploration of sound and movement. Looking wily and unhinged with messy hair and a red jumpsuit, Baird hopped between an analogue synthesizer, a beat machine, a flute, and a microphone, funneling sounds from each instrument into a loop pedal. She created obscure and circulative soundscapes while using her voice to snarl and chirp over layered lines of flute melody. The loop compositions yielded a tribal-like repetitiveness that was accompanied by Baird’s jagged, free-form movements. This spectacle was not unlike witnessing an onstage exorcism and was completely mesmerizing.

Fohr and her three bandmates took the stage not long after. During the intermission, they placed two Japanese dressing screens on both sides of the stage, and projected a series of psychedelic visuals behind the screens. Fohr stood directly in the middle, only illuminated by the glowing screens. Her visual presence was similar to when I first saw her in Brooklyn; bathed in light, but her face in shadow.

The band began playing “Brainshift,” the poignant opening track of Reaching for Indigo. Fohr’s haunting, almost paranormal alto filled the room with a chill; “The world wants to know / but all you can say / is ‘I promise to take up space / I can only promise to take up space.’”

It became clear after “Brainshift” that the band was performing Reaching for Indigo in order. Then, “Black Fly,” the bouyant, bubbly second track, followed by the minimalist, symphonic “Philo.” Fohr, mysterious and cool, was magnetic on stage.  

“Paper Bag,” Indigo’s single, came next. The song is a combination of two atmospheres, a spacey, synth-arpeggiated introduction, followed by a folk-rock shuffle. Fohr, chunking away on her beautiful twelve string acoustic guitar, drawled: “Stick your head into a paper bag and see just what you find.” The song erupted into a chaotic improvisation, and concluded with a slow deconstruction.

The set’s climax was during a nine minute performance of the heavy-hitting “A Story of This World Part II,” a pulsing, Zeppelin-inspired groove that constantly pushes forward. The sound and the fury that boiled over during this performance was an incredibly exciting, foot-stomping exhibition. Fohr, wailing over the pounding drums, had the tenacity and passion of a war general running head first into battle.  

After performing Indigo’s final two songs, the mid-tempo acoustic number “Geyser” and the ethereal “Falling Blonde.” Fohr & Co. said their thank yous and goodbyes and left the stage.

Fohr and Ka Baird stationed themselves at the merch table by the venue’s entrance and spoke with every person who was in line. They entertained every question and every comment with a genuine response and smile. I told Fohr about the Animal Collective show, which she remembered, and she entertained my silly question when I asked her what it was like being up on that stage in front of the sold-out crowd alone. “That’s how I’ve done it for a long time. I’ve been doing this a long time,” she said with a smile.

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