Duos must be the most potent formations for exercising creativity. These artistic partnerships represent a long tradition as well as a fascinating study of communicating sincere, authentic emotion to their audiences. There is something truly powerful in the harmony born out of this two-part interaction.
Tension, created by two strong individual forces gravitating towards one another, might very well be fons et origo from where the surge of artistic energy for Berlin-based duo Hyenaz springs. Not merely a musical project but a union of bodies, convictions, and aesthetics, Hyenaz brings together Kathryn Fischer (using pseudonym Mad Kate) and Adrienne Teicher (aka XIL, credited as Tusk on the record). Having their background rooted in performance arts and social activism as much as in music production, the collective successfully combines D.I.Y. aesthetics and high-calibre songwriting on their self-titled debut released by ever forward-thinking Ad Nauseam Records. Is there more lurking behind the curtain?
According to the members, Hyenaz is an evolving, living concept, a vessel for exploration, a fearless declaration of identity. Having their namesake originated from archaic superstition surrounding the androgyny of hyenas (and its presumed connection to magic rituals and the devil), the duo draws upon chaos magic, the queer movement, post-capitalism, feminism, transgender rights’ movement, a D.I.Y. mindset, and challenging on-stage aesthetics to form an intellectual platform for their creative output. Bringing their social concerns into focus, Hyenaz see all art as the key to social transformation and ritual as their chosen means of communicating that art to their audience, making live performance an integral part of duo’s identity. Even though their captivating live appearances and unique stage antics (worthy of a separate story) have already yielded them something of a cult status, the collective themselves largely leave perceptions and interpretations up to the listener.
Conceived, composed, recorded, and mixed by the duo themselves, their self-titled debut doesn’t hold back on the intent of using artistic freedom to its full potential. Having its ties in the alternative club scene of their native Berlin, the duo’s musical output positively finds its roots in EDM and synthwave, sometimes even crossing over to more pure-bred techno stylistics. From the first track, we are served to some familiar structures consisting of loops and electronic beats, supported by well-written synth lines and choruses. Those basic, prudent arrangements create a solid terrain for further ornamentation and experimenting: tracks’ structures often getting played around with (for instance, the aforementioned opener, ‘Bone’, gets a complete gearshift right in its middle); treated field recordings and sounds extracted from ‘Scavenge’; everyday objects finding their way into the compositions; less conventional vocal deliveries from both members strengthen the interaction between the musical elements. Like scene decorations, various moods and shades of emotions are displayed continuously throughout the record’s run: there is the sombre and the dreamy, the nostalgic and the playful, the reflective and the careless. This vital mix of musical elements, moods, and ideas reveals a curious kaleidoscopic approach to creating music, which, despite its free-thinking and experimental nature, results in a very organic sound and songs that also carry a pop-like accessibility.
Hyenaz aim to engage the listeners’ senses, demanding a bodily response. With its ties to genres that dominate the dancefloors, their music resounds the times when the first primitive rhythms were crafted as a call to the animal inside a man. Wrapped in the digital age’s guise, this primitive magic reveals its presence when the synth-pop-inspired ‘Reading’ kicks in. A catchy, foot-tapping beat, punchy techno-club choruses fused with clapping and whistles, heavily processed looped vocals, a trippy bridge clawing its way out right the middle of the song—all of these elements mix into one of a few effectively used ingredients that contain enough weirdness and mischief to make Genesis Breyer P’Orridge smile (in fact, it seems unfathomable that Psychic TV hasn’t been an influence on at least some aspect of Hyenaz’ creative output).
Not a concept album per se, Hyenaz’ debut is evidently designed to create one cohesive whole by the means of its thirteen tracks. A clever bridging between the end of one track and beginning of the next creates a so-called ‘infinite circle’ (as the collective themselves describe it), once again underlining the ritualistic approach of presenting their music. Like single beads, pebbles, trinkets, or pieces of bone braided into a necklace, the tracks create one whole but preserve the individuality of its pieces at the same time. There is also a good dose of anticipation woven into the record’s fabric as compositions get progressively more abstract and enigmatic towards the minimalistic finale, ‘Cypher’. Nothing seems out-of-place or random; in fact, the record feels almost choreographic in its execution. While those familiar with the duo’s live actions might miss their notorious intensity and extravagance, the record does a very good job documenting the gentler, feminine origin of the music.
Extracting the most out of their creative union, Hyenaz yearn to bring their artistic shamanism to the listener. Exploring a broad spectrum of emotions while taking a slightly less conventional approach to creating music, the duo has managed to give life to the songs that can easily fill somebody’s late-night-with-headphones-on introspective moments while also sounding completely at home being played on a dancefloor at some alternative club. Although its more flamboyant side might be a tad too much to handle for some, Hyenaz’s debut still offers anyone with an interest for quirky electronic music a rewarding listen with its own two feet/four paws firmly on the ground.
02) Burning Tonight
08) Desperate Knowledge
09) Calling to the End of Time
12) Plastic Islands