Nude Club Records
There’s a thin line between lazy minimalism and tasteful restraint, and an especially blurry one in an era where the solo artist reigns and preprogrammed arrangements dominate. It’s a narrow tightrope, but a select few artists seehttps://boyharsher.bandcamp.com/m to slide along it with a grace too often lacking in the stumbling, mumbling musical now. Boy Harsher somehow manage to do it while looking down the whole time, almost effortlessly; the deep vulnerability of their aura and verbal imagery offset with clinical precision and veiled malice, suggesting even darker possibilities.
Emerging from Northampton, Massachusetts almost a decade ago, the electronic duo have steadily built a devoted following amongst the modern darkwave faithful, arriving with 2015’s Lesser Man EP, as the hypnotic goth club staple ‘Pain’ landed heavy rotation in dimly lit basement bars. Bleak and direct in their simplicity at first, their sound evolved into a sophisticated blend of reflective gloom – 2017’s Country Girl winding up as one of the better offerings of that decade, subjectively.
It is with latest offering The Runner, however, that the vision is fully realized. In production, it was determined as the soundtrack to a movie, one not yet made. So, of course, they made said film, resulting in the short retro horror of the same name, recently released on Shudder. It’s a self-aware 80’s indulgence, like much of the album itself, but done so as not to saturate the palate.
There’s no tasteless irony or lazy plagiarism here – it’s a work authentic to the spirit of that era, without sounding dated or derivative. It’s at once the most diverse and cohesive outing from this pair to date: Guest vocal turns on ‘Machina’ and the infectious ‘Autonomy’ offer the most upbeat material by a mile, even reminiscent at times of peak New Order; but the opening salvo of ‘Tower’ and ‘Give Me A Reason’ resonate with the signature tangible menace, amplified considerably by the blood-soaked 80’s aesthetic. It’s all done tastefully and in proper respect, a foot in the past while very much looking forward.
The Runner, appropriately, covers more ground in a lean 28 minutes than most albums twice as long, and signals a point of artistic maturity for an act building a very credible catalogue. It’s an output of cult club classics and wistful night time drive songs, so often seeming like a soundtrack, and at last becoming one. I’ll suggest Runner and Country Girl in full instead of select tracks, as really both should be enjoyed top to bottom.