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Listen to Boston Dystopian Dance Duo Ex-Hyena’s Latest Album, “A Kiss of the Mind”

While the city dreams tonight

There’s an energy tonight

While the city dreams tonight

we’re a part of everything

Through the circuits

In the unique realm of Boston’s ‘dystopian dance’ duo Ex-Hyena, they seamlessly blend sharp punctuations with intricate hip-hop rhythms, leading their music into mysterious and undefinable territories. Their artistry reveals a distinctive fusion: the raw resonance of industrial, the pulsating energy of disco, and the ethereal tones of psych-rock, all imbued with the shimmering essence of synthpop.

Ex-Hyena’s textured and layered third album, A Kiss of the Mind (out now via ReMission Entertainment), is a symphony for the urbane and discerning ear. In this work, Reuben Bettsak and Bo Barringer delve into psychological themes of the human condition. Spanning nine pulsating tracks and a 48-minute runtime, A Kiss of the Mind stands as a milestone for a project born from one of the darkest social periods in modern history. Much can transpire in four years, affecting us mentally, physically, and spiritually. Part of this evolution comes from the passage of time, but also the ability to perform live – deepening the collaborators’ chemistry and penchant for casting darker, more complex rhythms in the bright neon lights of the stage.

“There was a bit more experimentation, and throwing lots of styles into the fold,” says Bettsak. “I think we operate better when we don’t set any strict rules on genres, etc. We let the music, and songs guide us.”

“We technically still wrote our parts in isolation, but what’s very different with this album is that it’s the first record informed by the two of us playing live in the same room and in front of audiences,” says Barringer. “There’s more of a sense of the dynamics that come from live performance and more push and pull, more tension and release. There are things that happen in real time that you just don’t get when you are writing by yourself in your basement.”

Nocturnal Lullaby opens the album with cinematic strings, looping, and piano sounds that gradually build, setting a contemplative atmosphere. The lyrics explore the experience of wandering through an unfamiliar city at night, lost in a maze of thoughts. This introspective walk, though therapeutic, can also be disorienting. Following this, Shapeshifter bursts in with catchy, sinister, sugary, and hypnotic electronic hyper-pop, taking several intriguing and unexpected turns.

Spiral Down plunges listeners into the vortex of our tumultuous present, blending reality with the collective anxiety about the future. This track delves into a kaleidoscopic web of introspection, weaving through doubt, confusion, yearning, and solitude, while also finding moments of illumination and contrast. The piece showcases Ex-Hyena’s dynamic range with swirling keyboard layers, deep resonant bass, and driving, hypnotic rhythms, embodying their dark energy.

Following this is Silent Storm, a lovely comedown: think Krautrock and Kraftwerk meets The Knife vibe with its syrupy, repetitive, hypnotic synth sounds and pulsing beat. “I was picturing a battle happening in the depths of the ocean with two lovers who are both sea monster robots,” confesses Bettsak. “It’s about the tension of lovers quarreling, but also leaning on each other and uniting.”

In Slow Motion is a banger that merges elements of darkwave, synthpop and shoegaze guitars, with powerful hooks and impactful lyrics. The lyrics deal with the challenge of communicating with one another. It can be so hard to understand each other even when we know each other so well. It can be difficult to understand each other even when we know the same language and this modern world makes it even harder with all the distractions. “Fear can be a debilitating force that can mess things up for yourself and also for relationships, friendships, etc.,” says Bettsak. In Slow Motion explores the themes of fear and also motion. It’s like picturing our actions through slow motion movements and dancing.”

A Secret to Protect is an electronic dark disco treat that mixes soulful disco beats, Latin clave hits, and speedy punk-funk guitars, with a hint of Britpop vibes. Reptile starts out super dark and sinister, and explodes into a super dancey instrumental section. “It should be blasted from a roller rink,” quips Barringer.

The moody Afterthoughts pulses forward with a beautiful haunting organ synth and bass pattern, informed by a Radiohead vibe. “It’s raining thoughts upon the concrete, you choose one and throw it against me,” says Bettsak. “It’s another relationship song of sorts. I don’t think I need to say more. It’s one of those songs that really gives me the feels.”

Through the Circuits is prog-electro meets catchy chorus track. “I think it’s the most truly experimental thing we have done yet,” says Barringer. “It’s experimental in the sense that I don’t even know now if it worked! But this one goes on a journey.”

Order the album here, and listen below:

Ex-Hyena has shared the stage with contemporaries such as Korine, Haunt Me, Traitrs, Blood Handsome, Harsh Symmetry, Komrads, and others.

The duo are celebrating A Kiss of the Mind with a release party on June 28 at O’Brien’s Pub in Allston, MA, with Cathedral Bells, Middle Part, and Video Days. Upcoming live appearances include an August 9 show at Myrtle in Providence with Snowbeasts, an October 3 return to O’Brien’s with Male Tears and Corrosion Boston featuring DJ Brian L, and an autumnal bloom on November 23 at Darq in Salem.

Follow Ex-Hyena:

Motion” and “Spiral Down”

Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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