2011 IN REVIEW: HTRK, ‘Work (work, work)’

Photo by Aaron Richter

Like most serious music fans, self-titled spends most days devouring records across hard drives, streaming services and our trusty office turntable. That’s why we’re devoting the next month to deconstructing LPs we loved from throughout the year. Here’s one of them, complete with the entire album streaming…

The Artist/Album: HTRK, Work (work, work) (Ghostly)

Why It’s Worth Hearing: Easily one of the year’s most misunderstood records, Work (work, work) has nothing to do with “witch house,” or any other obvious trends for that matter. Bleak but beautiful, it’s driven by sneaky synths and beats that go bump in the night, as if all of the blood was drained from the instrumentals on a coldwave record.

That doesn’t mean it’s bloodless, however. Or as Pitchfork put it earlier this year, “unappetizingly narcotized and drab.” The comfortably numb sound that Nigel Yang, Jonnine Standish and Sean Stewart–the bassist who took his own life in the middle of making this album–painstakingly maintain on all 10 tracks is the whole point here. You should feel like you’re slowly being submerged in a water torture chamber as each track unfolds in a way that feels overtly sexual yet strangely detached, an unflinching mix of disillusionment and detachment that ends with the telling line “It’s just business, baby.”

Through and through, this is what the xx would sound like in a world without hope, with bass lines rumbling off in the distance, exposed electrical lines snaking through your speakers and melodies slipping through the shadows like a lover who’s simply given up.

Check out what we mean in Standish and Yang’s exclusive track-by-track commentary below, or download a special mix featuring Stewart’s unfinished recordings here.

Available At: Amazon · Ghostly · Insound · iTunes · Spotify