Atlanta’s Lyonnais is a force. The four-piece, which includes two co-founders of the broad-minded label Geographic North and members of Lotus Plaza and Algiers, have committed to a sound with tremendous depth. Their debut record Want For Wish For Nowhere garnered comparisons to Bauhaus and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and the 7″ that followed, Terminus OST, saw them sinking into murkier territory. Now they’re sharing their sophomore full-length, Anatomy of the Image.
Anatomy proves as deep and hard to chart as Lyonnais’ previous records, though they’ve swapped the heavy guitars for a warm sound driven by bass and electronics. They’ve placed the most droning track at the fore of the album, five and a half minutes surrounding a single fanning tone with subtle variations—whether that’s to weed out the unprepared or to draw us into the envelope of the listening experience, it’s entrancing. The song that follows, “Vienna Circles”, pulls out of the murky waters and into a theatrical dreamscape, with a huge drumbeat over organs and shooting synths. Each remaining track is a bit of a shock out of the last. Hard-hitting electronic waves mingle with a garbled manifesto and bird chirps on “Labor”; the band channels heavy kraut on “Pan Am Sun Isles”. Given the vastly disparate sounds it brings in, the record’s movement feels wholly organic—one percussion line is intact from the dreamy, melodic pop tune “Hyperblues” into “Or, The Anatomy of the Image”, which meshes a blown-out bassline with emotive, growling vocals. For all the anxiety that Anatomy elicits, it settles on a high note. Since their start Lyonnais have been adept at sewing together distinct pieces, and this second LP is a gorgeous culmination of that ongoing handiwork.
Anatomy of the Image is out now on Geographic North, and you can stream it in full below. Read on for an interview with vocalist and guitarist Farbod Kokabi and guitarist Lee Tesche about the new record.
Impose: The spoken parts in “Vienna Circles” fascinate me. Is that a sample, or one of you speaking? What’s being said?
Farbod: Vocally, Vienna Circles underwent a number of iterations before we settled on the version heard on the album. Initially playing that out, I performed the song in a very exasperated, almost strained delivery. The lyrics speak to a dramatic ambivalence between desire and revulsion, a consistent thread through the record, so that kind of fervor felt natural to a live setting, even as it shredded my voice nightly.
Vienna Circles ended up being one of the last songs we tracked for the record. Having a pretty good sense of pacing for the rest of the album, the feverish vocals didn’t quite fit the sequence we had in mind, so we dropped them favoring a performance every bit as persuasive, yet far more restrained in its perseverance.
Tonally, the new record feels quite different from your first LP Want For Wish For Nowhere. Anatomy of the Image is a little warmer, more heated maybe. What were you drawing on this time around?
Lee: This record began as us going into a studio in New York during an icy winter after we had completed a brief northeastern tour that immediately followed the completion of Want For Wish For Nowhere. I remember thinking how incredibly cold it was with the wind whipping off the river in the desolate grey industrial warehouse area where we were. We originally just wanted to take a day and do a new song or two before we took some time off and hibernated for the winter. We walked out three days later with the framework for an entirely new record, which none of us really had anticipated.
While the first LP was very considered and laboured over, this record was very much born of two distinct moments in time that are at odds with one another. That lost weekend in New York inspired a second golden session in Los Angeles that following summer that helped us to reimagine and rework everything into a cohesive whole. You couldn’t ask for a scenario that was more opposite than the first. Some songs were transformed from their cavernous icy landscapes to rich layers of washed synth and saxophone. There is that tension between the two sessions that lies underneath a lot of the tracks that is hard for me to escape when I listen. I like that.
Why Anatomy of the Image?
Farbod: The title references Hans Bellmer, a German surrealist whose work explored—amongst other themes—how we perceive image and apply that to our own sense of desire and self-identity. As a band, we empathize deeply with the insecurities and anxieties the image evokes, so we made an album about it.
In your video for “Hyperblues” you touch on the ‘anxiety of the image,’ and your bio on Geographic North mentions that the record is a statement on the anxiety of self. Is the ‘anatomy of the image’ inherently anxious?
Lee: It feels like each of our records and videos are an exercise in balancing harmony and dissonance, resulting in moments of tension which elicit anxiety. Sometimes there’s a form and sometimes it’s nebulous. Menacing or dreamlike. For some it’s maddening—for us, this is interesting. The space in-between it all keeps our attention and sparks our imagination. In the anxiety you can find ecstasy.