HTRK - Death Is a Dream
Release date: 29 April 2022
Label: N&J Blueberries
Format: DL/MC

Death Is A Dream offers an intriguing glimpse behind the veil of HTRK’s celebrated 2021 western noir masterpiece, Rhinestones, by collecting 10 demos, vignettes, and sketches from the album’s genesis. Hearing the songs in a starker state illuminates just how striking and durable these arrangements are – like lost highway jukebox standards, the melodies radiate spectral heartbreak in nearly any key or tempo. Although few tracks diverge radically from their final form, they exude a looseness and transience that deepens their beguiling beauty. A number of these versions include a reverbed click track, as if heard eavesdropping through a rehearsal room wall; the percussive pulse gives the songs even more of a loping, lonesome feel, softly swaying in some private wilderness.

Nigel Yang’s guitar and Jonnine Standish’s vocals intertwine with an uncanny chemistry, straying on and off the same sidewinding path, attuned to the same shadowy moon. Yang describes their process as being pulled in different directions, experimenting and searching: “What can we take and can we make it ours?” HTRK’s gift for distillation is nowhere more vivid than on these skeletal sessions, shaping strings and silences into quiet anthems of strange longing. Unheard instrumentals like “Renaissance” and “Death Is A Dream” spin minimalist mirages from minor key riffs and tube amp vibration. “Devil Do” and “Fast Friend (demo)” slink and slowdive between waltz and dirge, dazed and amused, Standish’s voice traced in bewitching echo: “I tell you everything / Are you okay? / Are you alright? / Let’s just do something for fun.

As both ancillary document and standalone creation, Death Is A Dream further demonstrates the breadth and versatility of HTRK’s elusive craft. Theirs is a wavelength as much as a style, unconstrained by sound or instrumentation, time or place. It’s music of memory and absence, moments between moments, and the hidden heartbeat of things unsaid.

Written and produced by Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang
Artwork by M.C.Pichl @skkinz
Mastered by Jason Powers