Venus in Leo
Five years after Psychic 9-5 Club, Venus in Leo presents a markedly different portrait of HTRK, the Australian duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang. Gone, for the most part, are the aching sub-bass rumbles and the dub delay that made the former album such a darkly velvety listen; also gone, for the most part, are the synthesizers that had played such a central role in their music since their 2005 debut. In place of densely woven layers of electronics, the focus lies mostly on clean-toned electric guitar and bass, skeletal post-punk drum beats, and Standish’s voice, which is left almost unprocessed. The lack of treatment on her vocals leaves her melancholy singing all the more vulnerable, while the spacious, stripped-down arrangements summon memories of other duos and trios—The xx, Everything But the Girl, Cocteau Twins, Low—that dared to do less with more. It’s HTRK’s Unplugged album, a daring foray into minimalist goth.