You make me feel like falling through.
I disappear, in my mind.
Boy Harsher return with their second LP Careful – a wild ride that celebrates
abandon, while mourning attachment + love.
Boy Harsher began as an urgent need to produce and consume. In the winter of
2014, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller started to experiment with sound, video, and
text. The advent of Boy Harsher! Born out of this tumultuous relationship in swampy
Georgia, their first EP Lesser Man is sexy as it is sulking. Lesser Man determined their
morose, pop sound. In their second album, the full length Yr Body is Nothing, Matthews
and Muller took that dark and ran with it. Both releases reflect the fervor present in their
adolescent lust and anger. Yet, before Matthews and Muller recorded any song, their
chaos made the project vulnerable and invariably lead to momentary destruction . In
what was at the time believed to be their last performance, Matthews had “careful”
tattooed across her back, while Muller fried the speakers. A lit candle was thrown. They
were not on speaking terms.
At that time “Careful” was meant as a warning: the cautionary understanding of
love. The duo felt as though they were disappearing within one another. But, if Boy
Harsher’s first two releases narrated the pain and desperation that follows after
something goes awry, then this LP, Careful, describes what loves gives you: fear and
joy, tenderness and pain. For Boy Harsher, Careful attempts to detail the enveloping
trauma of loss combined with the fantasy of escape (a reckless abandon).
Matthews and Muller certainly made amends since that fateful live tattooing, loud
as hell performance, however both still have complex relationships to attachments. In
2017 Matthews’ mother was diagnosed with dementia and as the symptoms began to
take hold the essence of “careful” became relevant in a new way. Matthews’ relationship
with her parents has always been complicated: her father past away when she was a
teenager and her mother is an alcoholic, consistently unpredictable with affection and
stability. The loss of her father was extreme, yet acute, whereas the persistent sadness
of losing her mother (the memories that defined their relationship) is a slow, chronic
suffering. The trauma of losing someone is almost in tandem to Matthews’
understanding of love. It with these intensely personal struggles Matthews and Muller
began developing their new album. With Careful, Boy Harsher use the medium of
minimal electronics to create a compelling narrative of a deteriorating family and the
reaction to run away from it.
Careful splits its time between songs that study the trauma imbedded within loss
and the compulsion to flee. The track “The Look You Gave (Jerry)” is named after
Matthews’ deceased step-father, who passed right before her mother was diagnosed
with dementia. The song mourns Jerry, as described through her mother’s perspective:
“I close my eyes and I can almost see: The look u gave / when u / you ran from me.” For
Matthews the fiercest pain in relation to her mother’s disease is her mother’s loss of
comfort, a grasping at an image that slowly fades away. Death for Matthews and her
mother has become synonymous with abandonment. Not unlike the pain of losing her
father, Matthews conceives the hollowness where intimacy once was – the melancholy of
The message of “careful” also plays out as universal warning in these Boy
Harsher’s tracks — do not be fooled, loss is inevitable. “Fate” describes the willing
lover who knows that there is nothing their love can do to keep their partner. “Hi Hi / Oh
No / In spite of me / you always go. Forget the crying / tempt the pain / hi hi / gone
again.” In Careful affection vanishes as quickly as it arrives. To understand love, you
must accept that it dissolves, leaving sorrow and disappointment in its wake. Yet,
Careful reconciles the deterioration of love with the gilded expectation of escapism.
In reaction to these morose conditions, Matthews and Muller created multiple
tracks that celebrate flight. Their fantasies in these bleak scenarios play out in the
perspective of the runaway. “LA” takes this to a wistful degree. Slow swelling synths cut
sharply with fast chugging drum machines as Matthews begs someone to take her
away: to go down. The darkness exists in these reveries but in perverse extremes. Boy
Harsher proves Careful’s variety with these uptempo club ready tracks that demonstrate
escapism through vice and rave. With “Come Closer”, a nod to early EBM, Matthews
beckons on top of a pulsing bass: “In the dark, you have nothing left, Let me take it”, the
escape route is through another – gesturing to ‘come play’. Even the mascot of Careful,
presented in the album’s cover art, is an imagined runaway. This character, stationed in
a motel, or combing the beach with an overstuffed backpack, represents the embodied
fleeing of Matthews and Muller’s desperate years.
Careful marks Boy Harsher’s most dynamic album to date. The band expands
upon the fine-tuned production developed in their last EP Country Girl, but with plenty of
nods to the fast tempo and grittiness of Lesser Man. Matthews and Muller attribute the
evolution of their sound to the extensive touring they completed in the last few years.
“Traveling and connecting with people has been so fundamental;” Muller says “we’re
really able to experiment with our material and it feels like the live set as grown into an
entity of its own”. Boy Harsher embarked on two US and two EU tours this past year,
where audiences recognize their set as faster, harder version of their recorded material.
Careful was primarily written at home in Massachusetts, with just a handful of
synthesizers and a laptop. For Muller a minimal set up is paramount to his process. Boy
Harsher mixed the album in Italy with Maurizio Baggio of La Distilleria Studio
who had a big hand in finalizing the sound.
Boy Harsher emphasizes emotive sounds and evocative narratives to generate
palpable material in their latest release Careful. Careful is a timeless and original
minimal synth record highlighted by a strong narrative and marks the definitive return of
the enigmatic duo.
Mazy Fly, the second full-length by the Bay Area artist SPELLLING, explores the tension between the thrill of exploring the unknown and the terror of imminent destruction. Chrystia Cabral spent the summer of 2018 in her Berkeley studio reflecting on the thresholds of human progress and longing for a new and better tomorrow. She was struck by the way the same technologies that have given humans the ability to achieve utopian dreams of discovery have also brought the world to the precipice of dystopic global devastation. Despite the darkness of this reality, Mazy Fly is defiantly optimistic. It is a celestial voyage into the unknown, piloted by Cabral.
Each song on Mazy Fly enshrines distinct sentiments within this imagined voyage, from the deeply personal (“Hard to Please Reprise”) to the cosmic (aliens travel to Earth to hear music on “Real Fun”). “Haunted Water” is an intensely heavy song about the memories of colonial violence that haunt the historical slave ship routes of the Middle Passage. “Under the Sun” is a cosmic prayer for good fortune that sees the potential for radical newness in our own lives in the births of stars.
Mazy Fly musically traverses the spaces between languid, honey-soaked vocals and distant angelic whispers, from thumping 808 club beats to crunching tape loops, and from silky, smooth R&B to whirling organ sonatas.Cabral became enamored by the idea of flight as a harbinger of both progress and apocalypse, and that was expressed in the textures and compositional techniques she utilized.Swarms, flocks, flies, angels, spaceships, flying saucers –all are represented sonically by Cabral and her Juno-106 synthesizer.
“Secret Thread” is the key to this motif, and the heart of Mazy Fly. When Cabral saw her puppy Cooper running gracefully around an open field, she imagined a winged spirit moving through her new music. She named the spirit, and the album, Mazy Fly.
SPELLLING’s 2017 debut Pantheon of Me was Bandcamp’s #4 album of the year, and they raved: “Cabral has it, from her careful sense of composition to her charismatic presence to her ability to communicate with her music straight through to the listener’s heart.” Her first release on Sacred Bones, the “Hard to Please” single, was named a Best Track by The Guardian, who said the song was“like Solange looking in a haunted mirror.”