NEW ARTIST: BOY HARSHER
Boy Harsher are an exercise in contradictions. You wouldn't expect a band that came to prominence with a record called Country Girl to sound like an early 80s goth New Wave outfit. You wouldn't expect cheap synths and drum machines to be capable of such high-gloss sheen. You wouldn't expect this kind of lo-fi scuzzed out basement electronica to be headlining festivals and selling out a nationwide tour. Yet here we are, in the fascinating night-side world of Boy Harsher.
The duo of Augustus Muller and Jae Matthews have been pairing beats and old school synths with chantlike storytelling since 2013, originally as Teen Dreamz. Muller and Matthews adopted the Boy Harsher moniker in January 2014, right in time for a resurgence of hardware-based electronic music and a re-appraisal of industrial-tinged 80s electronic dance music, a la New Order or Nitzer Ebb.
They came out of the gate swinging with the Lesser Man EP, a mission statement of pulsing synth basslines, simple beats, and Matthews' distinctive subdued vocals, telling slice-of-life stories as viewed through a wall of dry-ice fog. It didn't catch on immediately but found its fans. Boomkat.com compares the Lesser Man EP to 80s revivalists like Xeno & Oaklander, the silk-and-soot synthpop of Tropic Of Cancer, and The Soft Moon.
BOY HARSHER - PAIN
Boomkat weren't the only ones to make this connection. "Pain," an early single to gain some traction off of Lesser Man got the remix treatment from The Soft Moon. The original iteration of "Pain" is all smoky, subdued vocals and locked-groove synth pulses. It's an exercise in simplicity, chilling in its effectiveness. "Pain" would sound right at home on the soundtrack to some throwback horror film like It Follows (music directors, pay attention.)
The Soft Moon's remake is even more scorched-around-the-edges, slurring and blurring Matthews' Siouxsie-like vocals like a dozen daisy-chained distortion pedals burning with indigestion.
"Run" is a cleaner out-take from the Lesser Man EP, which saw an extended re-release from the label Nude Club earlier this year. "Run" is more in-line with the mainstream '80s resurrection that's been going on, somewhere between synthwave/outrun and a soundtrack from Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Your face will go frosty and numb but you will be smiling.
BOY HARSHER - RUN
In many ways, Boy Harsher are refining the music of the past and offering some redemption. There was some good goth-soaked New Wave/industrialized dance music in the '80s, but there was also a lot of dreck to wade through. Hindsight offers clarity, as does the passing of years. Boy Harsher take the moodiness, experimentation, and simplicity of '80s electronic music and pair it with taste and a unique voice and vision. It's a spellbinding combination.
We Are: The Guard are completely bewitched by Boy Harsher. Make sure to keep an eye out for upcoming tours, as Boy Harsher have been quite the road warriors in recent years.
Thank you to our curator Daniel Ragnar for turning us on to Boy Harsher.
BOY HARSHER - PAIN (THE SOFT MOON REMIX)
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.