First impressions are very important. And oh boy, have Massachusetts based three-piece Hyber made a great one.
When scouring Bandcamp and SoundCloud for new acts, I take my first bite with the eye. Naturally, exceptional or interesting cover art isn’t indicative of quality, but the striking cover of the sleEP, with its vibrant pastel palette and cute badger/skunk thing, certainly draws you in.
The crucial thing is what happens when you hit the play button. This is obvious, almost to the point of redundancy. But given the dominance of streaming, it’s something a withering dinosaur like myself can’t help but muse upon.
Long story short: I consume a lot of music which fails to deliver. However, Hyber’s work exists light-years away from this category.
I grew up listening to rock music, but my tastes have drifted further and further from it since I discovered EBM back in the mid-2000s. Electronic music is my world now. From the simple delights of modern pop, through to some of the most mind-bending and gloriously absurd works out there.
Curiously, this heightened my appreciation of sleEP. While I never stopped listening to rock, it just hasn’t felt as vital to me as it did when I was younger. In fact, off the top of my head, Wynona Bleach, and now Hyber, are the only new acts under its umbrella who genuinely excite me.
Hyber describe themselves as a ‘Trio of nerds’ who are ‘Rockin’ some pop grunge emotional jams.’ “Pop grunge” is a decent description, despite how nebulous and disputed the true characteristics of grunge are. Personally, I’ve always considered it a genre grounded in honest (and often raw) expressions of insight and emotion, combined with interesting twists on rock’s aesthetics and tropes.
Musically, sleEP is all about striking drums, vibrant bass, beautiful melodies and Kris Musto’s wonderfully expressive vocals. Thematically it’s about being in love, while yearning (and sometimes failing) to make it work. That’s a gross simplification of sleEP, but hear me out.
On “Feel,” Musto is working through her insecurities, in hope of bringing things together. The chorus is a simple repetition of ‘I just wanna make you feel alive.’ This all hinges on overcoming doubts and previous issues: ‘I am letting go of the past. It’s something I am not good at.’ Despite the melancholy, there is a sense of hope here. She’s seen a ‘New territory’ and seems somewhat confident in ‘Asking you to walk with me.’
“Feel” establishes the genuine heart beating throughout sleEP. It also signals some striking contrasts. Crashing cymbals and a fantastic solo are present here. There’s a rush of energy as if Musto and her unnamed other are on the verge of something epic.
“You Were” is a neat exploration of complicated dynamics. From behind a lush acoustic guitar, Musto insists that she ‘Gave you my worst like I gave you my best.’ For better or worse, her partner got the complete package. But she later contradicts this. Having promised to cross oceans and scale mountains, she notes that she ‘Would’ve done it all for you. But I guess I blew that when you were mine.’ To me, this implies a hesitation, a fatal restraint that overcame her and doomed what they had.
It’s worth pointing out that sleEP isn’t a sad slog however. Musto is a captivating presence, but bassist Eliza Kessler and drummer Jeanette Abbene are equally as impressive. The three-piece mould is something I’ve taken for granted for a long time. It’s great to find a fresh appreciation of this deceptively simple set up.
“Good For Me” is the best example of how goddamn entertaining Hyber can be. It’s definitely the most poppy part of the EP. It’s faster, it’s more upbeat in tone while remaining a cohesive part of the whole.
And it provides an unexpected moment of triumph and humour. Around two minutes in, Musto and Abbene address each other directly. Adopting roles from either side of a relationship.
‘Listen, I’ve been meaning to tell you something. I just…I just don’t want you anymore.’
‘Jeanette, y’know what I’ve learned? I can’t force you to want me…’
This is a fantastic and spirited moment of inspiration. It leads into some superb harmonies and another glorious blast of instrumentation.
I was already entranced by, and enthusiastic about, sleEP before this happened. But this sequence put it way over the top. I really can’t wait to see where Hyber goes from here. This is a band I am absolutely rooting for. And you should too.
You can find Hyber here: