When writing about the music of Circuit Des Yeux aka Haley Fohr it is difficult not to discuss her voice, and whilst I am drawn to artists with unique voices and singing styles the music also requires substance for the artist to make a lasting impression. Fortunately on In Plain Speech, the latest album from Circuit Des Yeux, it is immediately apparent that Fohr isn’t relying solely on her distinct vocal presence to capture people’s attention.
Comparisons have been made to Scott Walker and Antony Hegarty but aside from the fact that these artists each have their own unique vocal style there is little else tying them together. To my ears Fohr’s music shares more in common with avant-folk acts such as White Magic, Seaven Teares or even Baby Dee; acts who make compelling modern music, which is still undeniably linked to the past.
This link to the past is important to note as it defines In Plain Speech from Fohr’s previous releases. The ‘folk’ tag applied to Circuit Des Yeux is still apt but not simply for the stripped back acoustic guitar/vocal numbers scattered throughout her discography; it’s the arrangements on In Plain Speech that seem to draw on more traditional folk elements in an interesting and contemporary way.
Much has been made of the collaborative aspect of the album in comparison to Fohr’s primarily solo previous efforts. And this is certainly noticeable with the songs taking on a fearless quality, something that may have been harder to achieve as a solo musician. Not only has the music evolved but Fohr’s unmistakable voice has also become more confident, always in charge, always poised to erupt at any moment. One such moment comes on ‘A Story of This World’, a relatively temperate affair that slowly builds until Fohr’s vocals are unleashed in the songs arresting climax.
‘Fantasize the Scene’ is one of the album’s catchier moments using a more clearly defined song structure with the memorable chorus “Maybe I’ll meet you there / In a world where we’ll go all the way” providing one of many lyrical hooks that resonate long after the album has ended.
‘Dream of TV’ is one of the more interesting tracks musically speaking, building from a repetitive pizzicato line with sparse percussive hits to a wash of distorted guitar tones and flurries of flute, which grow and swell before abruptly making way for the piano-led coda.
In Plain Speech’s strength lies in Fohr’s confidence both vocally and as a songwriter, which when combined with the collaborative nature of the recording results in her most bold and engaging album to date.