Album Review: HTRK-Psychic 9-5 Club

HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock-I made the mistake of pronouncing the letters for about six months before a friend with really good taste corrected me) have had a rough time. There’s no joke to be made here, because their story is really sad. Initially a three-piece, they were reduced to a duo in the making of their (excellent) sophomore record ‘Work (work, work)’, when bandmate Sean Stewart committed suicide. But the remaining members of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang carried on, and are a continued and formidable presence of weird, pulsating and thinking music.

Now, I get that almost every album review is going to put up something about Stewart’s death, but in this case, I only mention it because I see that this has, most likely, inspired them to move into realms they might never have felt comfortable exploring. The result of 2011’s super dark and gruelling ‘Work (work, work)’ was an obvious testament to the will and passion of Standish and Yang, and its impression remains lasting. But after three years, the question a few will ask themselves is if HTRK remain relevant.

Oh. Oh yes, they totally do. There is still a drive and distinctive quality to HTRK that does not exist in any other band right now. But rather than the overtly brooding nature of 2011’s effort, ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ injects a more fluid, flushed and light work. It doesn’t crush with intensity, but it whispers with a deadly passion nonetheless. Gone are the heavy clicks and bass thumps, to be replaced by shuffling electronica, and subtly whirring synths that move in and out of the music with the caress of a mother ninja.

Seriously, every song on this album is a work of total beauty, majesty and poise colliding together in a super-soft explosion. Standish’s vocals smother like never before, and the instrumental work is flawless. Totally. Flawless. The opener of ‘Give It Up’ encases this, where a gothic shimmer pervades, and introduces the audience to the newer HTRK. It has a very similar pace and quiet intensity to artists like New Look, or Fever Ray. It shows that you don’t have to scream and shout to immediately capture the attention.

This continues throughout the album, each song slightly building the swaying tower. ‘Feels Like Love’ glitches away like old school Jon Hopkins, ‘Wet Dream’ succumbs to a squelchy, whistling haze, and ‘Chinatown Style’ makes itself so quiet, it’s like you have to bend down into your speakers just to catch the brief glances of beauty that’s flurrying away inside the song. These songs are like tiny sprites running around inside the reflections of glass, small and fast, almost naked to the eye, and only those that pay attention are rewarded.

There never should have been any fear that HTRK wouldn’t deliver. Standish and Yang are competent musicians, and they would always lay something down worth paying attention over. But ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’ is a haunting, ethereal piece that smoothly wraps itself around your brain and ensnares you with the addiction for as many repeat listens as your body can handle.

 

HTRK are playing at the Civic Underground on 10 May. I would highly recommend attending.

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New Electronic Music: BANKS + Youth Lagoon + Tycho + Scenic + Rainbow Chan x Cassius Select + ALTA + Oscar Key Sung x Black Vanilla

Bro, can you feel it? I’m peakin’ braj, I’m peakin’! Broseidon, I can’t feel my arms!

Such is the life of a gum-muncher. I’m here to fund that lifestyle! These tunes will be with you throughout the thick, thin and the paranoid moments when someone is watching you, and it doesn’t matter that no-one else can see them, they’re totally there.

BANKS-BRAIN

I really have to thank my spirit guide Luen for this one. This track is absolutely killer, in that it will cut your throat, empty your carcass of blood, and leave your lifeless, deflated corpse by the side of the road, but there are no regrets because this song was just way too good. Produced by the almighty Shlohmo, ‘Brain’ is a popping R&B infused track. It starts with sliding water-droplet subtlety, and then, funded by BANKS’ illustrious voice, moves into a pure orgasm territory. I won’t ruin it, but the short of it is that you need to listen to this track, because it will make you want to accomplish all your dreams.

Youth Lagoon-Worms

I went and saw Youth Lagoon on Thursday night. I’m not going to write a review for the show, because frankly, he kinad sucked. I love his music, especially his first album, but in live shape, it was a bit of a self-indulgent, cinematic mess. However, this new track from him is amazing. ‘Worms’ is precisely that, a slinky, earthly thing that slowly worms its way around. There’s a constant twinkling, but the whole thing feels underground, trying to make its way to nowhere in particular, searching for purpose, but at the same time, pretty content knowing that’ll just be your average worm. Stay humble Youth Lagoon, its what I love you for.

Tycho-Montana

Segue alert: Youth Lagoon has a mad, mad, insane, mad song called ‘Montana’. This next paragraph is dedicated to a song entitled ‘Montana’, that also happens to rule. What the Franco, James?

This is a lot more spaced out than the previous entries, an instrumental track that heavily lies on the ‘instrument’ part of that phrase. Not only does Tycho incorporate synths and ticks, but there’s a lot of classical instrumentation appearing-live drums, piano, guitar, various percussion…It makes for a layered, super intriguing track that has more texture than a cup of fro-yo with all the toppings.

Scenic-Ride the Thrill

Scenic are from Perth, which means there’s a de facto Tame Impala influence on there. I’m genuinely surprised they got snapped up by Future Classic and not Modular. Regardless, Scenic actually share more in common with label-mates Jagwar Ma, channelling that Madchester rave scene in all its Happy Mondays glory.

Swishy, hazed vocals washing over you, a pulsating, electric pulse and a thumping synth line that crawls all over the place like a drunk Spiderman on a skyscraper. Dayum Scenic, you got yourself a fucking great song!

Scenic are going to be opening up the Laneway festivities tomorrow in Sydney, so be sure to catch them. Unless you’re at The Growl, with me, in which case, its cool, all is forgiven.

Rainbow Chan-Milk (Cassius Select Remix)

I absolutely adore Rainbow Chan. Her cool, teenage melodies that are chirpier than Twitter’s mascot are to actually die for. I would stab Zeus for a chance to cop an exclusive listen to new Rainbow Chan material. I also adore GUERRE (remix alias=Cassius Select). GUERRE/CS is also very awesome. Glad we’ve established that. Moving on.

So when two adorable elements such as the aforementioned collide on a re-re-remix track, amazing is sure to follow in stead. Prepare yourself for a sultry remix that is not afraid to do its own thing whilst flashing the sex-eyes at you every couple seconds and make sure you’re watching. What a minx!

ALTA-Wandering

Melbourne group ALTA are prepared to rip open your expectations via the earballs, and ensure that you’re paying more attention than the poo-eating scene from Human Centipede. Think of Willow Beats and Super Magic Hats, super silky smooth stuff that gets you jittery behind your belly button.

On ‘Wandering’, ALTA still retain their tribal roots, going full on Amazon, but also adding stylistic elements, pulling back just when you want to hear more, and then pouncing forward right when you’re least expecting it. Basically, ALTA have got the listener hooked, and a lack of this stuff will lead to withdrawal.

ALTA are playing tonight (!) at Good God. Get on that shit.

Oscar Key Sung-All I Could Do (Black Vanilla Remix)

Final entry, though no less organ-failingly good. It’s another remix of Oscar Key Sung’s badooshhhh single ‘All I Could Do’, this time from Sydney tune-shiners Black Vanilla. Usually more R&B focused, this one takes a small sample of Key Sung’s vocal ‘…could…’, and then adds some trap claps and shimmering, trickling synth work to make this remix the ice-queen of all OKS remixes. YEWWWW!

New: HTRK-Give It Up (free download)

Oh shit muffins, there’s some official new HTRK. Fans of the disturbingly dark rejoice!

‘Give It Up’ is the first single off HTRK’s third record ‘Psychic 9-5 Club’, which is going to be released in April next year (It’s going through Ghostly International in the USA! That’s the same label as Shigeto and Gold Panda!). Now, HTRK were always ones to experiment with new sounds and cover new musical ground, but whereas you’d be used to soaring guitar loops and occasional squal in their previous two releases, ‘Give It Up’ rids itself of that. Instead, there’s a more defined, limber approach, like Portishead.

If you imagine a sea mammal just slowly drifting through the ocean, not really alive, not really dead, unmoving and caked in sorrow…that’s the picture you get from the sadness that resonates on this track.When Jonnine Standish says ‘This time…I’m gonna love you much better’, you can actually feel your emotional glands working overtime. Very beautiful, but more heartbreaking than repeat viewings of Schindlers List.

Video: Shigeto-Detroit Part 1

Amazing new video clip from Detriot based producer Shigeto. One of the stand-out tracks from his just-dropped album ‘No Better Time Than Now’, ‘Detroit Part 1’ is an old school noir track that fuses underground hip-hop percussion, with Eastern instrumentation and what sounds like Space Invaders. It’s very cool, but the real stand out here is the video clip. It tells the story of discovery and self-realisation of the urbanian. The video is plagued with trippy Hitchcock style imagery and symbolism, and it looks amazing, and is totally transfixing.