Boy Harsher have been here before.
2016 debut Yr Body is Nothing was an exercise in stark, doomy coldwave, it showed how you can be minimal in your musical approach but still manage to be incredibly powerful, albeit in an unfussy way. Three years later there are no major shifts in sound, more a consolidation of what came before.
Anyone casually picking up this second album by the Massachusetts duo will immediately know what's on offer just by looking: the bizarre, out-of-focus sleeve, song titles like “Fate” and “Face The Fire”. Boy Harsher's coldwave credentials are worn boldly here.
They already have one stone cold classic track in the form of 2015's "Pain", a dirgy piece of dystopian anger and self-loathing, and on Careful they ramp up the pulsating arpeggios and clubby beats deployed on that track. Throughout, though, the production is sufficiently lo-fi to evoke images of icy, dank studios and videos by German industrialists KMFDM.
Careful excels when the music is pissed off and direct, firmly in the synth pop arena but always artfully warped, and clad in black. "Fate" is a great re-imagining of Music For The Masses-era Depeche Mode as mixed by DJ Hell; the angry electro, '80s synth stabs and doomed-out atmospherics on "LA" are intensely claustrophobic; "Come Closer" adds an urgent techno edge to their bleak mastery.
There are a number of beatless mood pieces ("Crush", "Keep Driving") which showcase a more restrained, cinematic style, but ultimately bring little to the table, especially when the non-committal, monosyllabic vocal ice of Jae Matthews is such a focal point. Overall, though, this record leaves quite the impression; if uneasy listening is your thing, Boy Harsher’s murky interpretation of dead disco will envelop you in its dark delights.