The introspective second album from the Boston duo is set for a June 24 release via Hush Club Ltd. and Brutal Resonance Records.
In our most lonely and isolated moments, the moon is always lurking just above. It’s a constant, a compass, and a companion.
But it can also act as a psychological portal to transport us to another place, one less physical and more mental, as we drift out of our physical limitations and embrace a new state of being. The soundtrack to this shift comes from Ex-Hyena, who on June 24 unveil sophomore album Moon Reflections, a 10-track collection released digitally via Hush Club Ltd. and Brutal Resonance, with additional cassette and t-shirt collaboration with Brutal Resonance. The album propels the Boston duo of Reuben Bettsak and Bo Barringer into new thematic territories.
Where critically acclaimed 2021 debut album Artificial Pulse danced through the shadows of reality, from waking up in dystopian landscapes to riding highways with biker gangs, Moon Reflections bridges the physical into the psychological. Ex-Hyena have leapt from the world around us into a hypnotic void, where memory and introspection are integral to personal survival. Because once the world is no longer habitable and our surroundings turn unforgiving and cruel, the only place to turn is inward.
“Moon Reflections brings forth cinematic landscapes from the Ex-Hyena world,” says Bettsak. “This futuristic world is created to build imagination sparks, to grasp memories, and to delve into understanding our fragile minds. It’s interesting. I think our last album was maybe built a bit more on stories, and characters from a dystopian future world, and of course aspects of that world touched upon the realities of our world. But in building imaginary worlds, one can tap into the subjects of the mind. Moon Reflections dives into the deep, murky waters of memories, it falls down a void of nightmares, it experiences extreme loneliness, and it also highlights a few characters via cinematic scenes from the Ex-Hyena future world. And it all meshes together because imagination is a great magnifying glass.”
After a trio of singles set a stark tone for the brash and brisk electronic minimalism of Moon Reflections, a fourth track titled “Fractured” dropped May 13, backed with an exclusive remix from California duo BlakLight. “Fractured” follows Moon Reflections mood-setters “Nightmare Pills” (October 2021), “Capture The Stills” (January), and “Sight Unseen” (March); it’s an uneasy, atmospheric track that aches and crawls along a dizzying understanding of what lurks deep inside our own head.
“The imagery tends to perfectly sync with the music,” says Barringer. “I honestly have no idea how I put the music together. I think I was really just experimenting with a few elements and as the pieces came together the whole created this feeling of unease, a feeling of tension. And the tension builds and builds till it finally gets to the chorus and never looks back.”
Bettsak agrees, adding: “Our minds are complex highways, and so are relationships. Sometimes we wish for the ability to explore someone else’s thoughts in order to better understand them, but it’s hard to navigate/understand our own minds. Communication, and remembering key memories, can help heal fractures. It’s also a meditation on memories, memory loss, nightmares, and dreams.”
But “Fractured” only tells part of the larger story arc of Moon Reflections, which finds Ex-Hyena experimenting with more hip-hop-inspired beats and complex rhythms, bolstering the project deeper into sonic territories that are impossible to label. “I think the songs on Moon Reflections really work together, lyrically,” Bettsak says.
What emerges from the lyrics help anchor the album into something relatable on the surface, as tracks like “Sight Unseen,” “Tremors,” and “Capture the Stills” delve into introspective themes like the intricacies and complexities of our minds, our relationships and our yearnings, and our battles with creativity. Elsewhere, songs like album opener “At the Moondial,” plus tracks “Euphorbia,” “Nightmare Pills,” and “While Curtains Burn” capture moments from various characters in Ex-Hyena’s future world, from lovers escaping cults to drug experimentation that expands or controls reality to adventures far out into desert landscapes that may or may not be real. Future Noir themes also persist, on how crime shapes us and what we do to escape detection after running afoul of society’s law.
“The Ex-Hyena model has been perfect for turning ideas and song fragments into actual songs,” says Barringer. “One of us comes up with an idea, sends it to the other and almost overnight it becomes a fleshed-out thing worth pursuing.
And while there is no limit to where the mind takes us, there is equally no restriction to the type of sounds that Ex-Hyena are crafting for this sophomore effort, which blends elements of industrial, disco, and psych-rock into their already established aural cocktail of synth-pop, electro, and dark-pop. If it’s nocturnal, it likely falls somewhere in Ex-Hyena’s shadowy spectrum of sonics.
“Musically, we definitely are delving more and more into where we can take electronic music. There definitely is a bit more of a focus on songcraft on this one. It’s probably because things really started to click even more as we developed our sound. I think we also started realizing that we can explore different musical styles and directions, and still make it sound like Ex-Hyena. It’s a dark electronic music with a punk, post-punk attitude. I think Bo really likes to keep things unpredictable, and interesting in the way he programs beats. For us it makes things exciting not playing by the rules, or trying to fit into a specific style of music. We both know that the best path forward to keeping the Ex-Hyena pulse going is by continuing to explore, and push ourselves.”
With the moon as our guide, our memory as our map, and our minds as our playground.