Photo by Francis Lyons
Ylayali is the long-running recording project of Francis Lyons, drummer of Free Cake for Every Creature, 22 Degree Halo, and 2nd Grade. His music is made to be discovered, rummaged through. Ylayali has released 3 albums over the last 3 years and dozens others over the last 13 that are now spread across some lucky few home-dubbed cassettes and forgotten websites.
In May of 2019, Lyons released Caterpillar Graveyard, an album that would demarcate a new beginning for the project. There has always been equal parts noise experimentalism and songwriting, but with CG, the noise is noisier and the songs completely indelible. There is discord. There is patience. There is pop melodicism. The record blossoms like time lapse footage of a flower blooming.
Shadow on the Grass and Magic Eye followed in March and May of 2021. This trilogy of albums is required listening. They are the sorts of records that should never leave the tape deck, and then years later get excavated from the skeletal remains of a well-worn, well-loved Town and Country minivan en route to the junkyard.
In his own words, Francis describes his newest release as Ylayali, his Dear Life Records debut, Separation:
Summer of 2021 I moved back to Philly from a 2 year return to my hometown. A leap away from a period of desperate personal excavation. I’d never not been recording since I was 17 but how to write and what is the point if I am not digging? Ylayali has always been a vessel for self-reflection. For the first 7 or 8 years it was almost purely a vehicle of exorcizing specific painful, embarrassing, or confusing experiences.
I confided in my therapist-cum-Sliding Scale Spiritual Adviser and Dream Analyst. I sat on the floor in the back of my minivan and told him over the phone that I had nothing. True to form, he offered that my dreams were a gift. He’d often breathe a befuddled ‘wow’ when I finished reading my latest 4 pager. This suggestion, and therapeutic flattery, helped prop up a new path forward.
Separation is almost entirely a 'dialogue' between me and a character from a dream. He’s a man of idioms and advice and insecurity. He’s an empty wig and lifeless outfit on my studio floor. He Needs Me, to me, is the theme of our 'relationship'. The Popeye soundtrack classic sung by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl had been floating around in my head for years.
Circle Change is the one exception. It’s also an album by the Ohio band Delay that was one of maybe 5 CDs in the van on my first tour. I was chauffeured around while my 2 bandmates up front zoned out and left albums in for days at a rip. At first not my style, then kinda, then hated, loved, haunted, healed, revealed. Whatever I felt, I heard it again and again and again and the phrase has stuck with me.
Now, in 2022, I’m realizing I’d forgotten that Caterpillar Graveyard felt like a fresh start in a similar way. In it I dance with and run toward and feel burning jealousy of a made up child version of myself. And that Shadow on the Grass was mostly born from dreams or pre-sunrise fantasies. And that the onus of Magic Eye was to cross my eyes and write without thinking. And that all exorcized memories are myth.
Anyway, here's Separation, the product of a flattered analysand makin’ another lap around the track.
Releases on DLR: