If an electronic band stops using electronics, can they still make electronica? If the band in question are Melbourne’s HTRK, and if we’re listening to their new album Rhinestones, the answer might just be yes. It’s an artfully spare release that manages to track as ambient pop despite sounding made mostly with spacious arrangements and cavernous echo, and only the slightest hints of digital triggers hit and effects applied.
Their peaks of familiarity to fans reaching back to Work (Work, Work) come in the middle of this album with “Real Headfuck,” a drum machine-powered warning of heartbreak and complicated love, and the sweetly spiraling “Gilbert and George” at the end. Surrounding those, we roll down into dusty New American Gothic valleys, “Straight to Hell” echoing into a Southwestern night as “Kiss Kiss and Rhinestones” hits a home run at a David Lynch open mic.
Constantly hinting at Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s cult classic collaboration from 1968, Rhinestones brings HTRK as close as ever to sounding like a traditional singer-songwriter act. Jonnine Standish’s vocals and Nigel Yang’s guitar thrumming are distant and spectral, like measured demos of a more fleshed-out release to come. These aren’t knocks, just interesting observations of a coolly interesting album.
Adam Blyweiss is associate editor of Treble. A graphic designer and design teacher by trade, Adam has written about music since his 1990s college days and been published at MXDWN and e|i magazine. Based in Philadelphia, Adam has also DJ’d for terrestrial and streaming radio from WXPN and WKDU.