Work (work, work)

Ghostly International

Sep 07, 2011 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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. No doubt that informed what was already a bleak approach, but the band didn't necessarily dwell on it exclusively. As they put it on their website, the album "revolves around themes of submission, dysphoria, sentimentality, tech-noir, and corporate life."

People sometimes forget only a few elements are required to create some serious atmosphere, and the duo immerse you in their druggy darkness right away with "Ice Eyes Eis," which pairs a sexy German voiceover (if there can be such a thing) with a downtempo beat and cavernous atmospherics. "Slo Glo" follows up, its plodding beat metallicized by a flanger effect, and a few measures in introducing you to the other main atmospheric element to HTRK's music, Jonnine Standish's breathy, ice-cold vox. They decorate most of the songs here, whether it's more traditional verses or (more often) fractured, heavily effected sections. Yes, that's effected, as in ECHO Echo echo, but affected also applies. At times, Standish's detachment act can be a little too ice-cold, frankly a little flat and zombie-like, as on "Body Double." But if one does some sympathetic detaching of his/her own, it becomes just another instrument, droning along with a rolling bass synth and spooky arpeggios on "Eat Yr Heart," or the booming 808 toms and Locust-esque ambience of "Bendin'."

HTRK sometimes get the "dream pop" tag, which is appropriate-they do touch on the gothier Cocteau Twins end of that spectrum, and their music is certainly dressed up in gauzy ambience, maybe never breaking 80 BPM. Work (work, work) is a desolate, urban lullaby, deceptively simple and definitely suffocating, but worth a little immersion. (

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