Home Video: Citizen EP

[16 March 2005]

By Tim O'Neil

Warp is probably one of the most diverse record labels around, even if this fact is overshadowed by the prominence of IDM acts such as Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Boards of Canada. Home Video seem, at least ostensibly, to be a rock act, but their stylistic influences are definitely broad enough to qualify them for membership under the Warp umbrella: they are to rock as Prefuse 73 is to hip-hop, albeit nowhere near as accomplished. The group is actually a duo—David Gross and Collin Ruffino—and this EP showcases their emerging talents in a pale, albeit promising light.

Opener “Citizen” is built on a Kraftwerk-meets-Primal Scream rhythm section, with gradually accumulating layers of droning guitar noise and haunting synthesizer lines. The effect is not unlike that of later Radiohead: think a less melodic Amnesiac. “We” continues the Radiohead comparison, with Ruffino stretching his vowels to Yorke-like proportions. As with “Citizen”, however, the vocals are much less important than the multiple layers of shifting and sliding electronic elements which compose the group’s sound.

“Blimp Mason” is a departure from the first two tracks, with a crunk-lite bass-heavy beat offset against a delicate piano movement and Ruffino’s melancholy, formless vocals. At just two-and-a-half minutes long, this track definitely deserved a longer treatment. “In a Submarine” is a sparse and moody exercise in creative percussion, with a range of drum sounds processed to sound like the rattling and banging of the mechanical parts of a submarine. Four tracks in and Ruffino’s vocals are beginning to grate, however.

The album finishes with “The Tundra”, a slow-building track built around a pair of evocative basslines that wouldn’t be out of place on a New Order record. There’s some harpsichord as well, and a few synthesizer echoes to provided to round it out. After only five tracks, Home Video’s strengths and weaknesses are fairly well defined: they have an interesting ear for rhythmic layering and minor-key electronic harmonies, but their songwriting is relatively primitive, and obviously deeply in debt to later Radiohead and similar cerebral rock groups. Additionally, the vocal elements add little to the effect, and either need to be revamped or dropped altogether. Hopefully, when the group’s full-length LP drops in the spring, they will have accentuated their strengths and reevaluated their weaknesses, as there is definitely a spark of something interesting to be found here. Only time will tell whether or not this spark will be fanned into a flame or fully extinguished.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/homevideo-citizen/