Boy Harsher, Special Interest, Light Asylum and Verboden Festival
Vancouver is blessed with 3 DIY festivals in April alone. We’ve just entered into the midst of Verboden Festival, an electronic-based weekend working with groups and performers across a range of genres. Here are our picks for some groups we consider to be worthy of your time if that’s something you have to budget.
Sunday night’s closer, featuring Northhampton’s Boy Harsher, is an absolute no-brainer. The duo has been pumping synthesis and driving beats over seductive vocals across dancefloors since 2014, originally calling their project Teen Dreamz. Jae Matthews uses whispered vocals that give way to shouts before lying back again, half obscured by Augustus Muller’s minimal synth lines and dance beats. The first EP, Lesser Man was originally self-released on cassette and then picked up by Night People for a proper vinyl treatment. It is part warehouse dance party and part S&M dungeon soundtrack. Repetitions of “Pain breaks the rhythm - Pain - Pain breaks the rhythm” lie next to tracks like “Lust” and the masterpiece that is the pulsing “Modulations”. As solid a debut as any. The debut LP, Yr Body Is Nothing continues with eerie, lustful fascinations and adopts some darkwave moments to tie things together. With the evolutionary pace set, Boy Harsher find themselves with 2019’s ‘Careful’, their first full length for Nude Club. An albums’ worth of singles in the familiar minimal approach to EBM and techno to create dark enveloping atmospheres. City escapism as dancefloor bliss. Previous to their work in Boy Harsher, the duo worked in film and have helped construct music videos for three of the tracks on ‘Careful’. The track LA was my first favorite from the new album so I’ve included it for your viewing pleasure here.
On tour with Boy Harsher is Brooklyn-based Light Asylum, who are due for a new album hopefully in the near future. At first, they struck me as odd but I was won over with the track “Dark Allies” off of their first E.P. Musically, Light Asylum are more prone to operate under the guise and sounds of the 1980’s Mute and 4AD catalogs if those same 1980’s were being produced by Trent Reznor or Luis Vasquez. A positively Eldritchian vocalist utilizes the mournful soul of darkwave with an urgency that captures the listener. I just wish they had more material. Watch the video for “Dark Allies” and ask yourself why it’s taken nearly 8 years for a new piece of music. Your answer is likely as good as mine.
Rounding out this tour and likely the most important punk band currently performing, Special Interest adopt an acerbic approach using No Wave tactics and hardcore confrontation. One of the more celebrated bands to play Toronto’s Not Dead Yet, Special Interest are danceable, bratty, pissed and having more fun than you are capable of. All at the same time. Repurposing Aretha Franklin’s “Young Gifted and Black” to include “…in Leather” and using grating guitar noise, discordant riffs with addicting rhythms, Special Interest are providing the best music to the party you weren’t invited to. They’re the coolest kids on the block. They know it. They gloat in it. If you’re the right kind of cowboy maybe you’ll get in on the guest list. Can you guzzle piss? Come on. Find out.
Unfortunately this article won’t make it out in time to highlight one Vancouver notable playing on the 11th. In Mirrors features Jesse from Nite Prison and one million other DIY projects. In Mirrors has managed some traction the last while and will be touring with Chromatics in North America. The debut record on Italians Do It Better is a minimal collection of drone and dreamy pop titled ‘Escape From Berlin’. Seven tracks painstakingly recorded and mixed over a few years with a revolving cast of characters.
Tickets are still available here.
There are many worthwhile bands and groups playing Verboden Festival this year. I wish i had time to write about them all, especially the locals. Check out what you can. You are guaranteed to read about some of these artists in the future.