Home Video: No Certain Night or Morning

Home Video: Penguin

On their debut album No Certain Night or Morning, Brooklyn duo Collin Ruffino and David Gross (aka Home Video) distill influences like Massive Attack, Radiohead, Portishead, and Smashing Pumpkins into their own pristine brand of moody electro-goth-pop. The one-time high school classmates previously issued two EPs on Warp in 2004 (Citizen and the 10-inch That You Might), and three songs from those discs re-appear on the new release. The slurred vocals in the opener “Sleep Sweet” immediately invites comparison to Radiohead and much of the singing that follows does little to argue otherwise (the drawling sneer in “That You Might” especially recalls Thom Yorke's whine). Having said that, No Certain Night or Morning shows Home Video to be more than a second-rate imitator. There's a greater electronic foundation, for one, with programmed drums giving its music a cool, machine-like character (though live drums are used in concert), and poppier, too, as Home Video concentrates on polished four-minute songs rather than indulgent experimental settings.

Many songs are distinguished by elegant vocal counterpoint, and there's a melancholy strain running through much of the material, as evidenced by the faint keyboard line that gives the coiled slam of “Superluminal” a mournful quality. The album really kicks into gear with the bass-driven thrust and throb of “That You Might” but subsequently trumps it with the infectious funk of “Gas Tank.” Proving the band's equally adept at less-polite music-making, “Confession (of a Time Traveler)” starts restrainedly with squiggly synth arpeggios and buttery-smooth falsettos but then explodes with steamrolling guitar choruses. Album closer “Melon” is actually the first song the duo composed but its supple build from an analog synth and drum machine shuffle to a tribal invocation already portends the promise fulfilled on this accomplished collection.

Is there any need for the three-track EP, given that the album and single are virtually concurrent releases? While the single does duplicate “Penguin” from the album, it also includes a short non-album cut but the primary selling point is the 11-minute ‘Loving Hand' overhaul of “Penguin” by DFA's Tim Goldsworthy. The winsome title song, in keeping with the style of the album, is distinguished by polished vocal counterpoint while the two-minute “The Headstart” vanishes quickly but not so fast that its obvious vocal debt to Radiohead isn't noted. In the remix, Goldsworthy methodically builds tension by tightening the dance groove through repetition and subtly increasing the song's intensity and volume; over eight minutes, the song morphs from its melancholy, song-styled beginnings into almost Latin-flavoured disco—a shame, though, that the track rides out the groove in its last three minutes rather than continuing its build. Even so, Goldsworthy's version is sufficiently different to render the single a worthwhile complement to the album.

October 2006