Song of the Day: July 20, 2014
HTRK, “Give It Up”
I’ve written about the Ghostly International label before; HTRK (pronounced “Hate Rock”) are just the latest instantiation of what I love so much about the imprint.
It’s almost impossible to discuss HTRK without referencing the tragedy that has stalked them like, well, a ghost: even the press release that announces the return of the Aussies-by-way-of-London-boomeranging-back-to-Oz duo explicitly mentions the 2011 suicide of founding member Sean Stewart during the recording of the band’s second album, Work (Work, Work). So there’s a pall hanging over the album before you’ve even heard it.
But that’s where it ends; maybe the best comparator I could make for this record is Massive Attack vs. Mad Professor’s “No Protection,” which took the group’s breakthrough “Protection" album and filtered it through a dub blanket that rendered it almost unrecognizable (and perhaps a tad sunnier, if more blunted) vs the original.
This is where the surviving duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang get to bury their, uh, ghosts — upbeat and expansive where HTRK’s preceding albums were dour and claustrophobic, “Psychic 9-5 Club" essentially feeds the banalities of life through a shower of happy pills, sunshine and surf, delighted to still be alive and finding itself surprisingly optimistic despite being surrounded by constant reminders of the cruelty of everyday life. One of my favorite albums of the year, informed as it evidently is by the minimalist exercises of Tarot Card reading, fasting and the sunnier clime of Sydney, HTRK’s latest demands to be heard in its quietly determined way. (CdB)