HTRK: making anomie erotic. Agnieszka Chabros
HTRK, “Fast Friend (Demo)” (N&J Blueberries)
For people who think early Cowboy Junkies seem too crowded and loud, you might find duo HTRK from Melbourne, Australia more in tune with your laid-back attitude. Consisting of vocalist Jonnine Standish and guitarist/producer Nigel Yang, HTRK (pronounced “Hate Rock”) have been honing their minimalist anti-torch songs since 2005.
It’s hard to think of an artist working at the intersection of rock and electronic music who strips things down more harshly than HTRK. We may have to go back to Welsh post-punk band Young Marble Giants’ 1980 LP colossal youth hear an equivalent sublime interiority. Last years rhinestone album may be the epitome of HTRK’s whispering intimacy. If you liked that one, you can also dig death is a dream, a collection of demos and sketches derived from these sessions. These are the ultimate bedroom tunes – fragile, beautiful and fascinating. HTRK here abandons the harsher edges heard on their early pitches Nostalgia, Marry me tonightand work work work). Every guitar chime, soft drumbeat, and feathery-smooth vocal syllable on rhinestone seems crucial.
The original “Fast Friend” on rhinestone boasts a heartbreaking melody, enhanced by the reverberation of Standish’s alluring, boredom-laden vocals, while Yang’s guitar glistens like jewels in the moonlight. The demo version finds Yang on acoustic guitar and Standish’s more unadorned vocals. The flared snare hits come at a rambling pace, but are as emphatic as a slap, contrasting with the spare Cowboy Junkies-on-Pluto vibe. Standish sings like an Antipodean Tracey Thorn, exuding a sweet melancholy and making the anomie erotic.
Standish’s words describe a friendship whose vague risk is worth overcoming: “So many red flags make you feel interesting/What a bond to make/Expressions to fake/Keep pretending/With So many loose ends makes you interesting/Don’t you think the way we met is a little unreal?/…I’ll tell you everything/Are you okay? Are you okay?/Let’s just do something for us have fun.” The enchantment ensues.
HTRK will perform on Wednesday May 11 at Substation with Mr. Caye Castegnetto.
Matt Joy, trine (long editions)
Based in Portland, Maine, Matt LaJoie is a veteran of the psychedelic folk scene thriving in the American Northeast. For many years in the 2000s and 2010s, he was part of the duo Cursillistas with Dawn Aquarius, and they played the late Josephine in 2009. That year, at the stranger, I described their music as a “stoned strain of sigh-chedelia oozing on the road. As always with the music from this tape, some will find it drags painfully while others revel in the liquid bliss of it all. Overall, however, the cursillistas evoke an eerie rural vibe that will freak people out, very gradually and naturally.
Another major LaJoie project, Herbcraft, leaned more overtly into lysergic rock and maintained the trippy qualities that provide high-end escape from this fatally flawed aircraft. Look for “Journey to the Center of Your Hive” from the 2012 album Bloom to understand the transcendental momentum that animates Herbcraft.
In solo, LaJoie presents a precise and slowly unfolding sound world that facilitates meditation and the beneficial lowering of the pulse. paraclete tongue from 2021 tuned four long tracks with a sparkling, languorous guitar burst that whispers, “all your worries are for nothing.” It borders on the best of New Age, which means it’s the balm bomb and not some cheesy, misinformed concept about gender that you’ve carried around in your noggin like a malignant tumor.
paraclete tongue fits perfectly in trine, LaJoie’s 33-minute album for the exceptional Australian digital label Longform Editions. Trine gives off those rarefied spiritual vibes that mystical German rock deities Popol Vuh conjured up in the 1974s Letzte Tagus – Letzte Nächte. This means that LaJoie has entered the pantheon of creators who, through the power of the guitar, transport receptive listeners to the highest stratum of happiness.
The piece begins with burst and repetitive strums that allude to Vini Reilly of Durutti Column at this most contemplative moment. A few minutes later, LaJoie chooses an utterly beautiful design that sounds like an alarm clock to reawaken your soul and open your chakras to endless possibilities. All along trine, he weaves subtle shifts into this theme, adding layers of stardust to every note and chord. This sacred music rises steadily with liturgical grace until you are thrilled with the starry splendor of it all.
I can’t say I’ve heard everything LaJoie has done, because his discography is huge and days don’t last 48 hours, but trine must be some of the best work he – or anyone else in the underground now – has done.