Boy Harsher – ‘The Runner (Original Soundtrack)’ review: electropop as sharp as a blade

After making a score for an imaginary horror movie with 2019's 'Careful', the Savannah, Georgia duo have done the real thing. Terror ensues

Although he wasn’t the first to do it, horror director John Carpenter’s (Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween) self-composed soundtracks have shaped the genre almost as much as his visuals. Sure, 1972’s Bob Clark-directed anti-war parable Deathdream and its synthetic sadness precedes Carpenter’s directorial debut Dark Star by two years, while Doctor Who theme composer Delia Derbyshire was making unsettling sounds with the synthesizer decades prior. Yet if you hear sub-bass and staccato piano, you think Carpenter. You think blood and guts. And you think: “I’d better lock the doors.”

The iconic filmmaker’s influence can be found all over this, the third studio album from Savannah, Georgia electronic duo Boy Harsher. His influence has been creeping upon them for a while: 2019’s ‘Careful’ was the soundtrack to a horror movie that didn’t exist. And so it makes sense that, this time, the group have made a horror movie as well as its soundtrack. The eponymous short movie is a fusion of meta-documentary starring the band themselves in a story about a female spree killer, either settling wrongs or simply killing for kicks. Its darkwave soundtrack is all the more sinister, sexy and thrilling for having visuals set to the sound.

And yet there’s more to the record than the mere articulation of fright; these were songs written in the wake of singer Jae Matthews’ diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. Opener ‘Tower’ fuses this combination of terror and frustration, with Augustus Muller’s thoughtful keys giving way to Matthews’ atonal fury. Elsewhere, the superb ‘Give Me A Reason’ takes the gearbox of Bronski Beat and hardwires it into the chassis of genre pioneers Clan of Xymox. It’s a pop song desperately trying not to be one: drenched with sadness, like all the best pop songs usually are, with the music saying one thing and the vocals something else.

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A handful of guests appear on the recording, from Cooper B. Handy aka singer-producer Lucy, who appears in the movie and on the pop-edged song ‘Autonomy’, to Mariana Saldaña (who plays in Spanish duo BOAN and the too often underrated US trio Medio Mutante). The tune that Mutante lends vocals to, ‘Machina’, is a great song on a record that is never less than good. Like the movie it features on, it’s a calling card for one of modern music’s most interesting groups – a group with a creative vision as sharp as ‘The Runner’’s steel blade.

Details

Release date: January 21

Record label: Nude Club

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