Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK



HTRK - Work (Work, Work)

Things have changed for HTRK.

Previous full-length album Marry Me Tonight was recorded with Rowland S. Howard (former Birthday Party / These Immortal Souls who died in 2009) and offered up potential for great things. Feted by the hipster glitterati, the future looked increasingly bright for HTRK.

In 2010 bassist Sean Stewart took his own life, reducing Hate Rock to a duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang.

Work (Work, Work) is the first HTRK release as a duo and is heavy on atmosphere and resolutely bleak. It's apparent early on that Work (Work, Work) is very different to Marry Me Tonight. Electronics and fractured rhythms replace spindly guitar lines. It's doubtful that this change is completely the result of the death of Sean Stewart as much of Work (Work, Work) was recorded prior to his untimely passing .

While there is a distinct change in the type of rhythms used (on Marry Me Tonight it sounded like HTRK had stolen the drum machine from the early recordings of The Sisters of Mercy) - this time, the rhythms are much more contemporary and varied and there is a greater reliance and emphasis on electronics.

The loss of Sean Stewart hangs heavy over this and it's most noticeable on the opener 'Ice Eyes Eis' with its slowed-down, lurching atmospherics, combined with electronics, over which plays a voiceover in sultry sensual tones. There's no sense of fulfilment though. As it plays out in almost funereal fashion the only feeling is isolation, partly due to the fact this was recorded late at night in a hotel room by Sean Stewart. It's a frozen moment of barren erotica that slips into 'Slo Glo' with its ricocheting pulse and soft bass tones. Standish's effortlessly cool vocal here is as cold as ice and remains as detached as ever throughout Work (Work, Work).

'Eat Yr Heart' is awash with analogue rumbles and clipped drum machine rhythms. Here Standish's forlorn vocal is gradually enveloped by creeping, screechy electronics. It appears to be a comment on the vacuous nature of mainstream success, which, at one point, looked like was on the cards for HTRK. It's fair to say that on the basis on Work (Work, Work) mainstream success may elude them for a while yet. Not that mainstream acceptance means anything, anyway, and certainly not to HTRK.

Work (Work, Work) is cold and clinical, and is a very different recording to Marry Me Tonight. 'Bendin'' remains in a cold electronic realm with analogue judders and looped rhythms with the vocal steeped in reverb. Only the atmospheric synth offers a feeling of warmth here. The low bass shudders seem to owe more to dubstep, than any of the influences that informed Marry Me Tonight. In fact it takes until 'Skinny' before you really notice any guitar playing and even here it's severely disjointed, as it pieces its way around the languid electronics and clinical rhythm. Standish continually poses questions throughout but you really don't feel she's interested in the answers.

Standish's detached aloofness works well with the sexual theme of 'Synthetik'. It's the closest to the likes of 'Ha', 'Panties' or 'Disco' that pushed Marry Me Tonight into subversive pop territory. That said, both 'Poison' and 'Love Triangle' carry something over from the previous release too. The scraping post-punk guitars of 'Poison' are pushed against sub bass tones and rhythms, while the clipped guitar stylings of 'Love Triangle' that intermittently pierce the ice cold beats provide the backing for Standish's blurred, distant voice as she sings of a meshing of personalities or perhaps, given HTRK's past preoccupations, it may more accurately describe a threesome.

HTRK get even more minimal on a couple of tracks. None more so than 'Work That Body' which is reduced to just buzzing electronic shudders and drum claps, while the closer 'Body Double' has Standish's half-spoken, half-sung voice draped over rapid-fire rhythms set against lulling electronics and rippling guitar lines.

Work (Work, Work) isn't an easy listen but it's not harrowing. Stick with it and it reveals itself as a slow-burner. For now, the death of Sean Stewart is too close to view Work (Work, Work) in its own right. This may be HTRK's coping mechanism as Work (Work, Work) is distinctly cold and detached.

As Standish states on the last track, "It's just business, baby". Work (Work, Work) as a statement of grief is just as valid. For more information go to www.blastfirstpetite.com or ghostly.com