Experimental, ethereal, electric. Boy Harsher creates music that breaks the American limitations of synthpop. In their latest release, the cutting-edge duo upheaved the norms of the music industry once again with “Country Girl Uncut,” a full-length follow-up to their 2017 EP, “Country Girl.”
Boy Harsher, originally formed in 2013 under the name Teen Dreamz, is made up of August Muller and Jae Matthews. Unlike stereotypical electropop, Boy Harsher’s sound is based off “minimal beats and synth textures,” reverberating techno rather than EDM and shoegaze rather than bubblegum pop. They’re the Cigarettes After Sex of dance music — dark, sexual and packed with emotion.
Considering the pair hail from the unlikely state of Massachusetts, far from the American electronic hub in Los Angeles, the band’s distinctiveness from the majority of the synthpop genre should come as no surprise. Boy Harsher proves artists can use Ableton Live and still produce compelling, original sounds.
The duo kicked the year off at the beginning of February with their promising album release “Careful,” an inky, thrilling album that explored the limits of a unified sound. Tracks “LA” and “Face the Fire” quickly rose up the charts, making the work their most popular full-length release to date.
“Country Girl Uncut” marks Boy Harsher’s second full-length release of the year. Unlike “Careful,” their Sept. 3 release returns to the basics. The band relied on a stripped-down setup to create a compilation of complex, dynamic tracks. While both albums are short, clocking in at around 30 minutes each, side-by-side the albums prove Boy Harsher’s flexibility by displaying productions with two different approaches to darkwave electronica.
The album is an extension of the band’s 2017 EP, “Country Girl,” with the addition of four original tracks, putting the total track list at just eight songs. New songs are dispersed evenly among the older ones, disrupting the original track order in a way that transforms the listener’s journey from the first song to the last.
Whether or not Boy Harsher had originally planned on expanding the original EP appears unclear, offering little explanation for the gap of time between the two releases. Regardless of the reason for delay, the later expansion on “Country Girl” gave the band an opportunity to break up the cadence of their discography. “Country Girl” offers sounds “very different than the rest of our stuff,” said Muller in a recent interview.
The sounds of Boy Harsher have evolved over the past six years, and extending “Country Girl Uncut” allowed the two to reference and explore influences from their older work. Muller said the work was “based off of sounds we used on our first record.” The outcome is a sound that is distinctly the underground goth expected from Boy Harsher, yet rings more minimal than other recent releases.
Though more minimal, the duo have upheld their avant-garde reputation — even with their titling. Two years after the release of “Country Girl,” the album title remains socially relevant. The reference to the West plays on the music industry’s recent obsession with everything country (think Lil Nas X). Boy Harsher is clearly ahead of their time.
“Country Girl Uncut” includes the addition of nostalgic tracks “Send Me a Vision,” “Swing,” “February,” and “Electric.” The four tracks fit well alongside the songs on the original EP; they’re in sync while also adding new dimensions of their own. “Electric” is hypnotic, “Send Me a Vision” is retro, “Swing” and “February” are eerie. Evaluated as a whole, the tracks come together to create an album ringing of obscure, ghostly, European electronic, similar to Amelie Lens or Public Memory.
A video release of “Send Me A Vision,” was paired with album, showing Boy Harsher’s artistic bounds extend beyond music. The abstract video is directed and edited by Muller and produced by Matthews. This isn’t a first. The duo often translates their film background to their music by including visual and emotional storytelling elements.
The importance of story might be one clue as to why additional tracks were added to create “Country Girl Uncut.” But even without the extension on the EP, “Country Girl” stands well alone. The original four tracks, “Motion,” “Westerners,” “Underwater” and “Country Girl,” are equally danceable, but exude a less aggressive tone and work to define the extended album.
The most popular of these tracks is “Motion.” True to Boy Harsher’s overarching focus on lust and love throughout their discography, the song reminisces on a past romance. Through the whirling electronics and new wave beat, Muller sings “Remember that night? / I want you forever.” As the album’s opener, “Motion” continues to set a nostalgic, yet innovative attitude for the entire work, even two years after its release.
Boy Harsher is one of the first American bands to question the traditional conceptions of electropop, and it’s catching on. Following the release of “Country Girl Uncut,” Boy Harsher’s second tour of the year kicked off on the 14th of this month. The ongoing tour hits major cities across the U.S., from New York to Los Angeles. In addition, the duo plans to keep the energy going with the physical release of “Country Boy Uncut” slated to follow in October.