Hyena is less a traditional narrative and more a dream. Gerard Johnson's film is about corruption in the Met, and as such it's not a simple clear-cut case. Here is a film where the good guys and the bad guys switch at will, preferring to spend their time in the gray rather than the black and white. Matt Johnson (aka The The) has created a hazy mix of violence, apathy, and regret, where human souls are consumed and regurgitated.
An intriguing mix of electronic and acoustic instruments, Johnson takes on a journey that feels like a hallucination. It opens in broad tones, ethereal and euphoric, but with a confused dissonance that breeds under the surface. This is not a happy story and Johnson illustrates that through atmosphere rather than specific thematic elements. Think Vangelis' Blade Runner crossed with Jan Hammer's Miami Vice - there are driving beats and great synth melodies, but there is an overall arching sense of dread where you feel something is going to catch up with you.
Johnson is able to evocatively paint vivid pictures with his score, and one of the dominant images that he conjures is a grimy London underbelly shot at high-speed, car headlights trailing everywhere, dissipating into the shadows. Johnson uses electric guitar in a droning way, and it adds a weight to the score that makes you feel uneasy. Much of Hyena feels like rain, like waves - there is beauty amongst the fog, and its scarcity makes it stand out even more - but again, this is not a happy story, and by the end you'll feel like the tortured souls of the story.
The colours Johnson uses complement each other, but there is still a sense of elements that do not belong together, which emphasis the contradictory nature of the characters. Lots of synth tones attempt to bring a melodic equilibrium but are overwhelmed by huge club beats and aggressive chords, jagged and stabbing. There is a lot of reflection here, of introspection, and Johnson conveys a feel of characters haunted by their own personalities, their own addictions.
By the time the album finishes - in a track that features a layered and emotional vocal performance - we finally reach a cathartic point, but we're bit allowed to experience it fully. No one gets away clean.
Death Waltz have put together an excellent package for Hyena that runs over two coloured LPs, one red and one blue. The music actually only features on three sides, as side four is a blank side with the The The logo etched into it. All this comes in a handsome leather-feel gatefold jacket with a lobby card and insert, which looks superb. It's a great record - another example of the creativity that can happen when popular music and film scores collide - and a haunting tone poem about man's fallacies and addictions. Essential.
- Charlie Brigden
Hyena is out now from Death Waltz Recording Co.