The suspense buried within “Pavilionism,” the opening track from Lyonnais’ new record, is ghostly but insistent. Within the anything-but-subtle drone is a bold statement of existence from the Atlanta post-punks, and a most deviant introduction possible to a much-anticipated album.
When the group released the single “Vienna Circles” last month, I flinched at the comparisons of Farbod Kokabi’s vocals to preaching. However, the more I listen to Anatomy of the Image, the less preachy his vocals sound. Emphatic and dramatic to be sure, but these aren’t the ramblings of an attention seeking, soapbox minister. Instead, his voice invokes a more ancient form of expression: a lament. This transcendent desperation rises and falls behind the marching beat of the track and the result is fiery and personal rather than cold and monstrous.
Though the prophetic dread of “Vienna Circles” gives way to wide array of emotions as the album progresses, there is a proximity between the listener and the band which bleeds through the depths of reverb and takes the listener closer to some unknown culmination which began with Lyonnais’ 2011 debut, Want for Wish for Nothing. Rather than expand on what was already a grandiose entrance to the scene, Lyonnais choose to sidestep the sound of their first album (as well as any hint of a sophomore slump) for a skeletal, rhythm-driven record that showcases the strengths of this talented cast.
There is a distinct professionalism underlying these tracks that makes complete sense when considering the band’s roster. Kokabi and Farzad Moghaddam are the two founding members of the group’s label, Geographic North, and the band is rounded out by Lee Tesche (Algiers) and TJ Blake (Lotus Plaza). The level of skill is obvious, but what is more impressive is the strong identity behind Lyonnais. It could be expected, even understandable, that after the success he achieved with Algiers’ 2015 debut LP, Tesche would have other things on his mind. Yet, there doesn’t appear to be a hint of any disinterest from any member, only a single-minded dedication to these eight tracks.
The crystalline orchestration of the record is void of weakness, but the strongest element is Moghaddam’s synth work. The simmering buzz adds a mythological richness to the record but never dulls the impact or angular nature of the songs. Unlike the Band Formerly Known as Viet Cong, who use synthesizers as an inroad to festival bills, Lyonnais use synths to alienate and disturb while simultaneously drawing the disparate edges of their music into a claustrophobic center. This is especially notable on the panicked tornado of “Pan Am Sun Isles” and the foreboding closer, “Or, The Anatomy of the Image.”
If Anatomy of the Image only served to prove that Lyonnais is more than a side project, it would have been enough. But within this record lies a transcendental re-imagining of post-punk. Though the band builds upon their musical forebears, the meditative darkness and instrumental prowess drive the record into unique territory, both enjoyable and challenging, and inciting simple gratitude this record was created.
Anatomy of the Image is out tomorrow on vinyl and digital. Pre-orders are available now.