REVIEW: Boy Harsher’s cinematic show mixes industrialism and storytelling in L.A.

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Jae Matthews, Boy Harsher

Jae Matthews of Boy Harsher performs at the Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2018. Photos: Kyle J. Kohner.

LOS ANGELES — If the South is full of danceable, EBM/darkwave acts like Savannah, Georgia’s own Boy Harsher, then please fly me there now because this dark electronic duo really understands how to put on a show. With the help of two similar-spirited bands, Boy Harsher‘s headlining performance at the Echoplex in Los Angeles on Sunday night was not one to forget.

With eyes rolled back, primal dance moves abundant and a smirk on her face, Boy Harsher frontwoman Jae Matthews’ dynamic and spontaneous stage presence enchanted a sold-out crowd with an unassuming charm and zany display of choreography—dance moves that grew increasingly poetic as Boy Harsher progressed through each track of their set.

While the duo opted not to play many tracks off their 2016 debut album, Yr Body Is Nothing (with the exception of the title track), the band delved deep into their 2014 EP, Lesser Man, including their most well-known cut “Pain” (encore). With that being said, the duo also offered tracks that may or may not have been new material.

Jae Matthews, Boy Harsher

Jae Matthews of Boy Harsher performs at the Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2018.

With gritty, industrial dance beats infusing ethereal synths and vocals, the small, yet prestigious L.A. venue was brimming with sounds that were both warm and eerie. Fierce and danceable. Matthews’ partner in crime, Augustus Muller, develops Boy Harsher’s ominous underbelly of sound with minimal beats and grinding synths, while the frontwoman whispers, shrieks and chants brooding harmonies and incantations over an evocative and hypnotic atmosphere.

Matthews remained gracious toward her boisterous audience as the performance ensued with an adrenaline-fueled energy as if it never stopped in the first place.

All this said, Boy Harsher is unlike any other dark, electronic outfit I have seen live, as their set managed to mix the ravaging nature of industrialism with delicately confessional storytelling, which separates Boy Harsher from its contemporaries. Considering Muller and Matthews’ background in film, their cinematic mindset translates through and through live, as Boy Harsher succeeded in devising an experience that was at the very least ritualistic yet somehow poignant on Sunday night.

Augustus Muller, Boy Harsher

Augustus Muller of Boy Harsher performs at the Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2018.

To start the night was DIN, the project of Los Angeles’s Josie Vand and Greg Vand. While their set felt a little short, DIN’s sound swayed effortlessly between warm and pastoral to cold and sharp, which left the audience room to both dance and dream. With DIN’s 2017 album Real Dirt as the act’s main source material for their performance, tracks like “Be In The Light” and “Oil” proved to be highlights. Unfortunately, there’s nothing incredibly revelatory nor memorable about DIN’s stage presence or setup, as the duet stays glued to their stations with only a guitar and drum machine at hand.

High-Functioning Flesh

Greg Vand of High-Functioning Flesh performs at the Echo in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 2018.

Next up was the electro-punk band High Functioning Flesh, which happens to also feature Greg Vand (DIN). But nevermind Vand, the party began and ended with frontman Susan Subtract, and boy does Subtract bring energy to a show. The HFF frontman must have danced around the stage at least a couple hundred times and may have sweat a gallon, as it was definitely drenched over the audience.

Just as psychotic as his stage presence, Subtract’s voice channels throaty vocal work that is eerily similar to Nivek Ogre of the ‘80s industrial group Skinny Puppy. However, the HFF is far from Skinny Puppy. With HFF performing tracks across their discography, including tracks like “The Plunge” and “Stationed,” the duo at the hands of Subtract’s unadulterated fierceness, beat abrasive yet ethereal dance music heavily across many gawking heads, which set the stage for what would be a phenomenal night.

Follow writer Kyle Kohner at Twitter.com/kylejkohner.

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