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: Holy Fuck-Sabbatics

Holy Fuck have a new single. Within that single sentence, thousands upon thousands of those into good tunes celebrated at an extraordinary rate. Holy Fuck are an elusive group that never step outside of the box of amazeballs, and ‘Sabbatics’ is no exception. There’s just three and a half minutes of squelchy, sneering half-electronica ambience. It pulsates with multi-coloured, pus-emitting glory, like the slow-motion birth of a Chestburster in a Slavic night club. Pretty fucking awesome, right?

Holy Fuck are playing at Good God on May 7. Buzz Kull, Seating Plan and I are all going to be there. You should seriously consider going, or else I’ll decapitate you with my copy of Holy Fuck’s self-titled LP.

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(s): Best Coast + Montero + Speedy Ortiz + Mogwai

Mo’ music videos, mo’ problems. I believe thats an age old adage, or something. Anyway, coming at you from all sides are a bunch of videos from around the globe that will make you a worse person as you inhale sinful things through your eyes.

Best Coast-This Lonely Morning

The last time I saw a music video on Funny or Die, it was FIDLAR’s ‘Cocaine’, and Nick Offerman got his dick out. No cocks in this picture, only Best Coast’s absolutely lovely bleached surf-rock sounds. Wistful and fun, ‘This Lonely Morning’ is about as irresistible as having high tea with Beth Consentino.

Simple as always, Best Coast play tennis in the best way, by taking out all the factors of speed, fitness, velocity and flying balls, and reducing the sport to hitting a standstill object. Although not the best tennis-based music video of the year (that would go to Courtney Barnett, with ‘Avant Gardener’) but this is still a great clip/song.

Monteo-Dead Heads Come to Dinner

Imagine Kevin Parker teaming up with ‘Congatulations’-era MGMT, and then fry that result with way too much acid. The result would either be a manslaughter case or Montero, the soulful psych-pop project from Melbourne. Goddamn, ‘The Dead Heads Come to Dinner’ is a great song, half nervous laughter, half-drug induced coma, and all jittery, good times.

However, the music video steals the show, with hands down the freakiest shit of 2013 making a very welcome appearance. SEE: Purple Witches Raise the Occult With Hula Hoops! WATCH: Christmas-themed Creatures from the Swamp Confusedly  Rise To Their Rightful Thrones! ADMIRE: A Jellyfish Just Doing Its Thing!

Speedy Ortiz-No Below

Off their debut LP, its ‘No Below’ by Boston’s Speedy Ortiz. I feel like this video encapsulates everything the far right wing fears about the hippie culture. Even though I wouldn’t call Speedy Ortiz a hippie band, their usual stamp of tunes being a scuzzed-up modern nod to the Pixies etc., there are bugs crawling around on some boobs and what appears to be an orgy in the forest. Seems pretty hippie-like to me. Maybe these kids are on drugs!

Mogwai-The Lord is Out of Control

In case you’re a newcomer, Mogwai are a post-rock band from Scotland that everyone loves. And they make long songs. Except their new track ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’. Huh? That’s fucked up. However, the song itself is pretty par for the Mogwai course, a mixture of tantalising sounds all collapsing into waves of torturous noise. Although ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ seems to hold a bit less of the usual attention grabbing sounds that Mogwai are capable of, the Spiritualized-ish tone of the track is delectable. As for the video, well its basically an art show in the video medium and it looks goddam good.