Born in the rock fervor of the beginning of the century, HTRK (read “Hate Rock”) emerged in 2003 from Melbourne, Australia, with that tasty adoption of the boundlessness of the no-wave that many bands were inspired by at the time. They were noise, rock, industrial, but they were, above all, a band disconnected and stripped of genres to deal with the usefulness of sound as a communication tool. In 2010, the suicide of bassist Sean Stewart left the two remaining members, Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang, destitute.
Since then, they have been groping their sound. Not as a process of discovery, but of healing, of how to occupy the void and locate the intensity. Naturally, they have slowed down, finding ways to build and build melodies in songs where Fleetwood Mac, Galaxie 500 and the Low from “I Could Live In Hope” fit. However, the references are to situate, HTRK’s current sound is not all about that, partly because the sensations heard in Jonnine’s voice are often unpredictable while Nigel Yang’s guitar levitates through the shadows. Evolution over the past decade has taken them there, evidenced by two brilliant albums, “Venus In Leo” (Ghostly International) and “Rhinestones” (N&J Blueberries), one of the best realizations in recent times about not knowing how to wake up.
Getting here is work. Since they have been a duo, HTRK have been cutting the excesses to their sound and reducing the creation of their melodies to the essentials. In doing so, they have exposed Jonnine’s voice to a reunion with the 4AD of the 1980s, without the superfluous production, just the real idea of constant loneliness. Yang’s guitar protects it, never sounding fragile or vulnerable, just something that exists as it is, sounds like what it has to sound like. By becoming progressively and consciously more stripped down, HTRK have become resilient, protected, and owners of a sensibility that is in short supply in the rock/guitar milieus of the present. To hear them with “Rhinestones” in their baggage is a privilege. AS