We last talked about Ylayali, the project of Francis Lyons, when we reviewed yy, their record on Lily Tapes & Discs. The album was a unique blend of whispered intimacy and speaker-shredding fuzz, what we described in our review as “a strangely satisfying mix of bummed out minimalism and expansive experimentalism.” Far from obscuring the communication, “the lo-fi homebrew vibe adds rather than detracts,” we continued, “the blurry introspection sounding somehow very real, without a single molecule of sugary production to mask what Lyons is trying to say.”
Now Ylayali is back with a new album, this time on Sleeper Records. caterpillar graveyard continues with the lo-fi ruminations, although sounds more suited to it’s late spring release date. Maybe it has something to do with that album art, but opener ‘little caterpillar graveyard’ immediately doesn’t sound quite so grey. The monochrome textures and tones of yy are replaced with a patchwork of the greens of new life, all the larvae and grubs emerging to wriggle around and chomp on leaves. Which is not to say it’s a sunny pop song exactly—the guitars still quiet and intimate, Lyons’s vocals still a sombre mumble.
‘coin pocket’ is up-tempo if not upbeat, the instrumentation forming a tunnel around Lyons’s voice, while ‘smilin down’ has hints of Told Slant in the almost spoken word vocals and sense of pensive regret. But that’s before the song’s second half, where it blows a gasket and explodes in a wall of noise, a runaway fuzz that hurtles toward an abrupt stop.
Two songs sandwiched into one track, ‘brighter inside + hum’ sparkles into life with the easy melody of a Free Cake song, Lyons repeating the line “a little brighter inside.” The track transitions into its second half with the thump of percussion, heralding a brittle lo-fi song that’s garbled with snatches of voices, like radio interference or the clamour of ghosts.
After an initial blare of noise, ‘first look back’ begins patient and sedate, but crunches into rock territory as it advances, garbled samples floating past in eddies of static and feedback. It’s a great example of what Ylayali does best, the fusion of the pretty and the harsh, of the intimate and the outward. The vocals don’t arrive until the final minute, and even then they’re barely there, gossamer thin against the messy background.
There’s a reverential air to the guitar on ‘smoked’, glowing like a luminous thread amidst the purple-black shadows of negative space. Lyon’s whispered vocals are eventually joined by drums and ominous burps of heavy guitar. The result is a slow burning track as humid and barely-restrained as gathering thunderheads.
Finale ‘perfect fit’ returns to something lighter, both in terms of its mass and illumination. Stretching beyond the nine-minute mark, the track has two distinct sections, the track itself and a hidden outro. At first it sounds delicate and unsure, a slow-stepping drum beat joined by the soft sparkle of guitar and Lyons’s barely there vocals. But after around four minutes, the hush grows and the song is reduced to picked acoustic guitar and a textured background hum. The voice, when it eventually arrives, is little more than a quiet murmur, like secrets or truths uttered to the dark way beyond midnight.
caterpillar graveyard is out now on cassette via Sleeper Records and as a name-your-price download from the Ylayali Bandcamp page. The tapes come packaged in beautiful 3 color riso printed jcards, so grab one of those if you can.