Album review: The dark delights of Boy Harsher’s new album ‘The Runner (Original Soundtrack)’ dropping tomorrow via Nude Club/City Slang

For those expecting traditional Boy Harsher, this is not it. It’s so much more.

The Breakdown

Nude Club/City Slang 8.0

From fetish clubs to catwalks, Boy Harsher have amassed a cult-like following for their broody, atmospheric beats. Stepping up the cinematics, in addition to Friday’s album release they’ve just premiered their own short film, via streaming platform Shudder. Entirely written, produced and directed by the duo, the film is a horror-style “documentary” about their recording process. The soundtrack – a worthy album in its own right – features Boy Harsher’s hallmark dark pop sounds alongside deliciously eerie, cinematic instrumentals.

As part of the release, Boy Harsher will play live dates (listed below) as well as movie screenings across Europe and North America, including a February 20 movie screening at the Rio Cinema in Hackney, followed by a live show at EartH.

The Runner OST – Augustus Muller and Jae Matthews’ fifth release – is far from a traditional album, being the soundtrack to their film and all. Therefore, the distinct components of cinematic arrangements and vocal features make their classically dark pop a touch darker and more wonderfully dramatic.

Last year, amid COVID chaos but additionally with Matthews’ MS diagnosis, Muller started working on moody, cinematic sketches. Initially a cathartic exercise in a time of uncertainty, Matthews kept thinking about the sinister character of a woman running through the woods. Muller’s sketches, together with Matthews’ thoughts and their joint need to keep creating, led to the development of the film. The soundtrack processes feelings of universal anxiety and the confrontation of at-home illness — a necessary expulsion during a time of unrest.

Both film and soundtrack open with the pulsating heaviness of Tower, the only track from the album that Boy Harsher have played live before. Matthews’ disembodied vocals are like a hex, spelling out desire and impending destruction.

The pop-infused Give me A Reason, with its looping synths, is like a desperate run through a dimly lit night. Typically ‘Boy Harsher’ in sound and vocal style, it’s the first song Matthews and Muller worked on together for the album, and is also a fittingly thematic return to their beginnings.

Two songs on the album feature vocalists other than Matthews: Machina is HI-NRG perfection, performed in both Spanish and English by Mariana Saldaña of Boan. Think of a soulless, sterile machine-entity, in soft-focus and enveloped by eighties-inspired dark-wave. The brighter, slightly more humane Autonomy – a new wave tribute – is performed by Cooper B. Handy of Lucy.

By allowing these other vocalists to show their own distinct sounds on The Runner OST there is an embracing of the soundtrack ethos, in that the tracks feel like they are from different musical groups.

‘The Ride Home’ and ‘Untitled (Piano)’ are the two instrumental tracks on the album, their sonic storytelling allowing Muller to showcase his credentials as a composer. Both pieces provide the emotional context and dense atmosphere to the film itself. ‘The Ride Home’ feels shadowy and portentous, while ‘Untitled (Piano)’ causes a shudder with its coldly bittersweet keys. Despite the practical intention both songs bring to the film, they certainly have their own unique musical merit.

Muller and Matthews have used this album as an opportunity to play with song structure, such as on fifth track ‘Escape.’ Opening with the fantasy ‘Maybe, we can escape?’, there is then a tonal switch from hope to acceptance, with Matthews declaring: ‘What’s done is done, my old friend.’

‘I Understand’ is the soundtrack’s short, reflective closer, with stark instrumentals accompanying the heartbreak in Matthews’ vocals. Sounding like a regretful voicemail, ‘I Understand’ is acceptance of the denouement.

The Runner OST is not only an album, it’s a soundtrack that perfectly serves the story of a desperate, running figure and her musical accompaniment. So for those fans expecting a traditional Boy Harsher release, this is not it. It’s so much more!

The Runner (Original Soundtrack) is out this Friday 21 January through Nude Club/City Slang

Boy Harsher tour dates:

Thu. Dec. 30, 2021 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *SOLD OUT*

 Fri. Dec. 31, 2021 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *SOLD OUT*

Sat. Jan. 1, 2022 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *SOLD OUT*

Thu. Jan. 20, 2022 – Boston, MA @ Crystal Ballroom at Somerville Theatre %

Fri. Jan. 21, 2022 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer %

Sat. Jan. 22, 2022 – Richmond, VA @ The Broadberry %

Sun. Jan. 23, 2022 – Durham, NC @ Motorco %

Mon. Jan. 24, 2022 – Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle %

Tue. Jan. 25, 2022 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West %

Wed. Jan. 26, 2022 – Nashville, TN @ High Watt %

Fri. Jan. 28, 2022 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat %

Sat. Jan. 29, 2022 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg % *SOLD OUT*

Sun. Jan. 30, 2022 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg %

Thu. Feb. 3, 2022 – Los Angeles, CA @ Belasco Theater (+ film screening) % *SOLD OUT*

Fri. Feb. 4, 2022 – Los Angeles, CA @ Belasco Theater (+ film screening) % *SOLD OUT*

Sat. Feb. 5, 2022 – San Francisco, CA @ Gray Area % *SOLD OUT*

Mon. Feb. 7, 2022 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom %

Tue. Feb. 8, 2022 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom %

Wed. Feb. 9, 2022 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre %

 Thu. Feb. 10, 2022 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile %

Fri. Feb. 11, 2022 – Olympia, WA @ Capitol Theater %

Mon. Feb. 14, 2022 – Paris, FR @ Cabaret Sauvage (+ film screening @ La Peniche Cinema) ^^

Tue. Feb. 15, 2022 – Nijmegen, NL @ Doornroosje (+ film screening  @ Lux Cinema) ^^

Wed. Feb. 16, 2022 – Leipzig, DE @ WERK2  (+ film screening @ UT Connewitz) ^^

Thu. Feb. 17, 2022 – Berlin, DE @ Astra (+ film screening  @ Intimes Kino ) ^^

Fri.  Feb. 18, 2022 – Frankfurt, DE @ Zoom ^^

Sat. Feb. 19, 2022 – Hasselt, BE @ Muziekodroom  (+ film screening @ Zed Cinema) ^^

Sun. Feb. 20, 2022 – London, UK @ Earth  (+ film screening  @ Rio Cinema) !

Sat. June 4, 2022 – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Sound

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