Boy Harsher, “Modulations” + “Spell”

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Boy Harsher Lesser Man

The incorporation of emotive melody and provocative composition in harsh industrial dance music seems a uniquely innovative and somewhat daunting task, taking care to seek out and prod at human sympathies rather than allowing indifferent droning beats to simply wash them away. Western Mass-via-Savannah duo Boy Harsher, with the release, and subsequent Night People Records reissue of their debut EP, Lesser Man, aim for a complex emulsion of monotone and lyricism that pull at heartstrings while maintaining powerful rhythmic energy.

The release of two new singles showcases the duality of their conceptual goal. The first, “Modulations”, solidifies Boy Harsher’s moniker under their genre, with industrial simplicity in the beat and percussive bass tones pecking under lush synth highs. Jae Matthews’ delay-effected voice seeps through the dance haze in ghostly moans, stating, “I’m waiting for an instigation,” and culminating in shrill yelps towards the middle and end of the song. The layers of percussion and the disturbed nature of the vocals may all seem randomized at first, but the few seconds of adjustment when something new is added reveal a pinpointed composition that looks to irk listeners while also instilling dance in their step, especially towards the end, when the higher synths return to the foreground, like a coda with a full band, and the final trickles of percussion exit the track.

The second single, “Spell”, is a slightly more conventional sounding track, less industrial in its beat, with cymbal crashes and a diversion from the one-kick-one-snare minimalism of “Modulations”. Bass undulations and vocal hushes create an aura of dramatic eeriness, stern and earnest, but pretty, while synth mids and phased tones add complimentary complexity to the melancholy of the voice. Like a good drama with plenty of action, the track can be taken as one or the other: a more sonic industrial dance, or an honest outpour of emotion. It can be listened to sitting in analytical silence, or danced to in crowded rooms of eye-shut darkness.