HTRK have been through a lot of changes in the past ten years, personally as well as musically. In 2006, back when their songs were full of reverb-drenched guitars, they left their home city of Melbourne for what turned out to be an unhappy stint in Berlin. From there they moved to London, where, in 2010, bassist Sean Stewart committed suicide. The band had been in the process of writing Work (work, work), an ominous, synth-heavy album that Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang finished as a duo.
Authenticity, or the perception of authenticity, has always been of great concern in the arts. If an artist seems to be coming from a ‘real’ place when they create, their work is always held in higher regard than performers that appear to be manufacturing their art for commercial reasons. As blurred as those lines are, artists with ‘stories’ are instantly more appealing than those without one.
It's been a tough road for Australia's HTRK. Halfway through the recording sessions for 2011's Work (Work, Work), bassist and founding member Sean Stewart was found dead of an apparent suicide, leaving guitarist Nigel Yang and singer Jonnine Standish to stagger on, completing the album as a duo. When finally released, the album was well-received, marking a sad success story for the remaining members, yet leaving them understandably shaken.
HTRK have been shedding since they started out. Although their debut EP Nostalgia was one of the most violent things to come out of the Australian underground since the Primitive Calculators crawled out of the sewer, every step since has been designed to dial back the noise and to scrape that record perfected. But they’ve also been losing people; first, the passing of their kindred spirit and collaborator Rowland S.
Psychic 9-5 Club is HTRK's first complete full-length as a duo. Founding member Sean Stewart passed away while the Australian group was recording their previous album, the gloomy Work (Work Work), released on Ghostly International in 2011. Surviving band mates Nigel Yang and vocalist Jonnine Standish carry on, offering an introspective batch of songs replete with hollow, dub-inflected rhythms and sparse melodies.
It's impossible to talk about Psychic 9–5 Club without talking about tragedy. The press release accompanying advance copies of the album makes this explicit: this is, after all, the first HTRK album without any input from founding member Sean Stewart, who took his own life as the band were working on their second album, 2011's Work (Work, Work). Even in their original three-piece incarnation, HTRK were no strangers to tragedy, having worked closely with Australian post-punk legend Rowland S.