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Australian cult favorites HTRK first emerged in the mid-2000s with a bleak yet beguiling form of electronic post-punk marked by dirge-like drum machine rhythms and sensuous vocals. Initially exploring a deconstructed noise-rock sound on releases like their 2005 debut Nostalgia, the group's sound became more refined, as well as more emotionally resonant in the following decade, with albums like 2014's Psychic 9-5 Club and 2019's Venus in Leo. As time went on, HTRK developed an increasingly organic approach, particularly on 2021's spare, acoustic guitar-based Rhinestones. HTRK -- pronounced "Hate Rock" and also known as Hate Rock Trio -- formed in Melbourne, Australia in 2003. After their former group, Portraits of Hugo Perez, disbanded, bassist Sean Stewart and guitarist Nigel Yang recruited vocalist Jonnine Standish with the aim of creating a project like the Birthday Party, with slow, mechanical repetition (courtesy of a drum machine and Jonnine playing percussion), simplistic basslines, and deafening guitar feedback. Their aesthetic clashed drastically with the '80s rock revival scene that was becoming popular in Australia, and their early shows harbored mixed reviews. The trio followed its love of Krautrock to Berlin, Germany, and recorded a demo. Titled Nostalgia, the disc was self-released in a limited run of 500 in 2005. Two years later, U.K. label Fire Records gave Nostalgia a proper release, and the group settled in London. Soon after, the trio started recording its first full-length, Marry Me Tonight, with former Birthday Party guitarist Rowland S. Howard. Blast First Petite issued the album in 2009. Tragedy struck in 2010 when Stewart committed suicide at age 29. Yang and Standish reluctantly carried on, signing with Ghostly International and releasing Work (Work, Work) in September of 2011. Although stripped down and less feedback-drenched than their earlier work, it was already halfway completed prior to Stewart's death and reflects his influence. Following 2012's Part Time Punks Radio Sessions, a split EP with Tropic of Cancer, HTRK returned in 2014 with their third studio album, Psychic 9-5 Club. Intimate and sensuously minimalist, it truly marked a new beginning for the group, producing some of their most affecting material. Another five years passed before the release of 2019's romantic, richly envisioned full-length Venus in Leo. Also in 2019, HTRK composed an all-instrumental soundtrack to the scientology documentary Over the Rainbow. The band's fifth studio album, Rhinestones, appeared in September 2021, and marked their increasing reliance on stripped-down, noir-ish folk and country tones.
© Jason Lymangrover /TiVo
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