The spaces that separate minimalism, drone and ambient music are indeed nebulous borders. It's the gray area in between that compels the four musicians who make up local post-rock outfit Lyonnais to explore sounds where rhythm, melody and structure merely become vague details amid whir and rumble.
Over the last two years, the group (pronounced LAY-oh-nay) has played scattered shows under various names (Knife Hits, Trade Winds), and performed mostly at the weekly Kirkwood Ballers Club night at the Highland Inn Ballroom. "We like to record dronier tracks but a lot of people in Atlanta don't want to go to an ambient show," says the group's keyboard/bass player Farzad Moghaddam. "Especially when you're playing at a bar."
The idea for the band struck friends and Geographic North label owners Moghaddam and Farbod Kokabi at the 2006 SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas.
They were so moved by the waves of overdriven guitar tones and colossal arrangements of minimal sonic parts that played out during a Rhys Chatham performance that they started a band. "There were such dense clouds of repetition that you would hallucinate melodies that could have been coming from one guitar or a number of them, or might not have been there at all," recalls Moghaddam. "That was pretty much when we said, 'Let's do this.'"
The group's lineup solidified around Moghaddam and Kokabi (keyboards/vocals/guitar), with T.J. Blake (drums) and Lee Tesche (guitar). In conversation, Chatham's name flies amid a flurry of other minimalist composers who have had an influence on the group, such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley.
Live, Lyonnais' take on drone music migrates toward subtle enclaves of sound, where vocals occasionally waft through the layered sonic textures. The one track they've unveiled via MySpace captures the aim of their explorations, but during shows the size and scope of their sound becomes an all-consuming resonance. And until they record more, their expansive and ever-fleeting noise remains in the ether.
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