Published on September 21st, 2021

Boy Harsher by Nedda Afsari

They come from a filmmaking background but Boy Harsher, the duo of Jae Matthews and Augustus Miller, make mesmerizing electronic music that wouldn’t be out of place in a David Lynch movie. The band is a minimalist fever dream of synths and beats with hypnotizing vocals that owe a debt to bands like Suicide and Yello. But we don’t compare; we celebrate the awesomeness of artists pushing boundaries.

Forming in Savannah, Ga., in 2014, and resettling in the artist colonies of middle Massachusetts, they’ve been grinding out recordings at a prolific clip on a label they created, Nude Club, and which they share with likeminded creators. Nude Club’s catalog includes remixes of the New Orleans punk-industrial band Special Interest and Miller’s own music for two short films, “Orgone Theory” and “Hydra.” The latter are pieces in a “techno-dystopian” adult film series called “Machine Learning Experiments.” Miller previewed a new installment, “Automaton,” in June with a cheerful tweet announcing, “I have scored another porn!”

Boy Harsher’s remixes with everyone from the Soft Moon to Perfume Genius find Matthews and Miller creating interesting pastiches with their signature darkwave sound as a foundation. For many — probably most — musicians, style and aesthetics take a backseat to the music. But some, like Matthews and Miller, see them as equal and inseparable, a complete package. Their art seemingly can’t exist if the sound doesn’t contain visual inspiration or doesn’t reflect a sense of things seen and dreamed as well as heard.

It’s a philosophy that has served Boy Harsher well: Mixing Lynchian overtones with dark minimalist music evokes a noirish sensation of impending danger in a smoky red room, where what lies behind the curtain could be the murderous “Twin Peaks” dwarf or the promise of some forbidden carnal delight. Maybe both. Boy Harsher might be the soundtrack to our doom in an apocalyptic age of disease, climate collapse, political stalemate and total denial. One last romp through vice and cool before it’s all gone — although their social media presence rings lighter: As post-pandemic life stirred in 2021, Matthews and Miller flew to Texas to buy a used truck and drove it home 2,000 miles with their dog.

Boy Harsher play III Points Festival, October 22 in Miami. ~ Tim Moffatt

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