The Magic of Boy Harsher

Boy Harsher are an american synth duo from Savannah, Georgia. Augustus Muller programs most of the music, while Jae Matthews writes and performs her haunting lyrics. They are a prime example of the addictive tempos and strong emotions that minimal drum beats and synthesizers can create. 

Their style falls into the wide categories of Minimalwave, Darkwave and Coldwave, three labels that could try and classify the powerful, electronic, synth-driven music type. Such styles hark back to the Post Punk era from which emerged bands who were beginning to experiment with strict, solid and “danceable” rhythms formed by analogue machines. The shock of Punk had made its impact and the melancholic minor keys of Darkwave began to spread across Europe in response. 

The surfacing Gothic influence could be heard in several well-known Post Punk pioneers like The Cure, Siouxsie and The Banshees and Bauhaus, but also bled into Minimalwave groups who conveyed the beauty of minimal drum beats and synths. Brilliant examples include Eleven Pond, Martin Dupont and Turquoise Days with tunes from each group like ‘Watching Trees’, ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Grey Skies’ respectively. Each encompasses the genre perfectly, just like Boy Harsher do today.

Boy Harsher’s sound oozes an addictive pain. Muller’s beats are so tight and strong and smooth, like solid chrome for Matthew’s voice to slide across. Every drum hit throws you deeper around the pinball machine. But Boy Harsher’s music really manipulates the listener with minor chords and solemn strings that fill the spaces, fuelling the emotion and the dark edge. Matthews’ voice always comes floating in like a ghost’s deep whisper. She sings of pain and performs wonderfully with Muller, because their expression is always true and authentic. They are playing from the heart, something often missing from the motivation of music in the mainstream today.

My Two Favourites:

Morphine- Yr Body Is Nothing 2016

This song is a powerhouse of a track with its solid pulsing bass line and sharp sounds that flicker in between the strict drum and snare. Matthews’ intense delivery of the lyrics and feeling of desperation is reiterated perfectly in the intense pounding of the beat. The classic reference of a lover being compared to a drug is made, which is always a metaphor to connect with. It’s beautiful to listen to and the breathy, sleepy vocal almost reflects the trance that Matthews is in. It’s impossible to not move to.

Lost- Careful 2019

Lost is one of my favourite songs of all time. Released at the end of last year on their latest album, ‘Careful’, it isn’t one of the most popular tracks on it at all, but songs won’t ever have the same effect on all of us. The whole track is like an industrial process running on Matthew’s emotion. Her voice is so confessional, telling us she’s ‘not very well’ in the first line as she throws us into her system of clashing factory-like sounds that drive the destructive feel of the song. Muller always constructs everything to have so much power. She’s pulling us away with her to escape; running away being a common theme in her lyrics. The silky synth pads jump out on and off the beat, pulling us different ways. This song encompasses my own painful endeavours in love, encapsulating the heart’s devotion as an ‘endless ache’ which is why the song is so special to me. 

Boy Harsher’s music has a dark, personal and powerful magic that will make you emotional, yet make you dance. Similar great bands to listen to are Black Marble, Lebanon Hanover, Molchat Doma and Motorama to name just a few. Enjoy.

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