Ever get the vibe you're bearing witness to something so intensely personal it almost feels wrong to have seen any of it at all? Especially when you get the notion it's not who you're watching, or whether it's everyday behavior or something out of the ordinary playing out, that is somehow creepy. But rather, when the creep is you.
That about sums up the visual treatment for "Hanging Mirror", the lead track off House Cricks and Other Excuses to Get Out, the sparse and disquieting debut record from Louisville's Jaye Jayle. The record is out now on Hawthorne Street Records. If House Cricks is a collection of dark folk, boogie drone, and threadbare rhythm and blues incantations that settle more like ashes blown from the pages of a lost Cormac McCarthy novel than anything resembling an indie record, "Hanging Mirror" is the moment the primitive shock of the Sun's reflection and human perception come to dominate all mental bandwidth, "when all moral and emotional inhibitions have left," said Evan Patterson, the brooding singer-songwriter force behind Jaye Jayle. And nearby, suffusing the night with "a distracting modern reality" are street lights.
"Basically, it's an anti-light pollution song," Patterson told me. "I fucking hate street lights."
Whatever is happening here in the space between light and dark, you shouldn't be seeing it.
Director Ethan Roberts calls it a "psychogenic fugue." Roberts, who works under the Gardenback moniker, shot the video in fragments over a three-month stretch around a house somewhere in London, working with Patterson (see also: Young Widows), to plant certain "clues and images" within the environment to summon, well, what?
A crimson light glows behind a cracked door. Beyond it, in black and white, a woman (Laura Hopwood) marks up her face in a looking glass. A cigarette burns on a saucer; a knife stirs a cup. The woman takes a seat and clutches the cup, sups from it, and turns her attention to an old two-in-one VHS TV set as it beams a pivotal abduction scene from noirish silent German horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), a tale about (among other things) a sleepwalker who murders and targets people, among them women, while under the spell of a mad hypnotist. A shadowy tangle of arms, and then: color. The woman dons a clown nose, stares into the middle distance—blankly at first, as her body contorts, then grinning, finally mouth agape, teeth bared.
"It seems clear to me now that it's an unravelling mystery, a discovery through transformation," Roberts said.
Exactly what that transformation is—or what that mystery holds—is not easy to pin down, though it would seem to hinge, somehow, on Dr. Caligari. The late film critic Roger Ebert is said to have described it as arguably "the first true horror film"; Bauhaus used imagery from the film as cover art for the band's 1982 single, "Bela Lugosi's Dead". It's tempting to read Dr. Caligari's presence in "Hanging Mirror" as an individual morphing and setting herself free for the first time, as an expression of long-held instinctual desires, possible to destroy man.
"There's no love, because there's no trouble," as Patterson intones. "Only shadows on skin."
Ever get the vibe you're bearing witness to something so intensely personal it almost feels wrong to have seen any of it at all?
It's a hard feeling to shake.
JAYE JAYLE OCTOBER TOUR DATES
October19 Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox
20 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus w/ Daughters
21 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus w/ Daughters
22 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda's w/ Daughters
23 Boston, MA @ Great Scott w/ Daughters
24 Boston, MA @ Great Scott w/ Daughters
25 DC @ DC9
Brian Anderson is the features editor at Noisey's sister site, Motherboard. Find him somnambulating on Twitter.