Release Date: Sep 6, 2011
Record label: Ghostly International
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Noise-Rock
HTRK were a trio; now they are a duo. Their second album, Work (work, work), is an expression of this transience brought about by the suicide of the band’s founding member and bassist, Sean Stewart. The 808 beats are eerily slow, the synth lines are achingly lonely, and the vocals are shadowed harmonies so luscious that you could swim in them. HTRK work with palpable emptiness, and although this release may seem well-timed to fit comfortably alongside recent works by Andy Stott, Deadbeat, and even indie boy du jour James Blake, it’s no trendy grab bag.
HTRK is pronounced "Hate Rock," FYI (the omitted AEOC seem to be available for a band name, if you're looking). This pair of Londoners (via Berlin and Melbourne) create raw, plodding electro, all 808s and cave acoustics, gritty textures and oscillated drones, and a dark, skeletal aesthetic. This release was finished up while the pair grieved the loss of their bandmate/bassist, who took his own life in 2010.
Though [a]HTRK[/a]’s second full-length proper was completed shortly after the tragic death of founding member Sean Stewart last year, its bleak soundscapes were imagined between 2006 and 2010. Continuing a penchant for darkness established on 2009’s ‘[b]Marry Me Tonight[/b]’, ‘[b]Work (Work, Work)[/b]’ is probably as grim a sounding record as you’re likely to hear. The sparse, nauseous swirls of ‘[b]Love Triangle[/b]’ make ‘[b]Kid A[/b]’ sound like an album totally in love with the world, while ‘[b]Slo Glo[/b]’ is [a]The xx[/a] brutalising [a]Trent Reznor[/a]; lyrically, subject matter includes poison, electrocution, bullets, eating hearts, and smothering.
Bands that find their voice quickly are the lucky ones. Of course, you run a greater risk of repeating yourself in the future, but by and large the hardest part is already out of the way. HTRK (pronounced "Hate Rock") aren't what you would normally consider lucky, both professionally and personally. Formed in 2003, the trio's no wave-leaning art noise found them playing alongside deities like Alan Vega and Lydia Lunch.
HTRK (strictly pronounced “Hate Rock”) is a London-via-Berlin-via-Melbourne electro-goth duo that clings to their genre roots like they're honored family crests. There are misaligned elements on Work (work, work) of Throbbing Gristle’s mechanized beats, Suicide’s bleak apocalypse, and the cyber-punk dystopias Portishead conjured up on Third. All of these touchstones are decidedly bleak for a good reason.
Trading in a sound that's best classified as doomed slowcore, you might say HTRK are in no rush to outrun their fear. They're a dark prospect, all told. Not by virtue of the industrial space-junk that clouds the picture, or the narco-gothic setting, but due to the funereal pace at which events unfold. Fear is endemic in underground music right now, but no-one is prepared to linger there for quite as long as HTRK, who on Work (Work Work) have jettisoned their debut's pop skeleton to ride a flat, locked trajectory to nowhere.