Picture the scene. Muse, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack and Chopin are alone in a boardroom together. Although, I don't believe that anything productive or useful ever came from any meeting in any boardroom, the results of such a clash of minds and music would surely produce something akin to the sounds of Home Video, an acclaimed electronic rock band consisting of duo Colin Ruffino and David Gross, hailing from Brooklyn, New York.
Known for their sensual strain of fused electronica and rock music, Home Video's unique breed of melancholy, malevolent pulsing sounds return with high expectations in the form of their latest offering, The Automatic Process, their first attempt at a fully blown, full length studio album.
The chilling, haunting lyrics and mournful voice, slow tempos and slow feel to the songs left me in no doubt that Home Video have tried to create an album that is designed to be 'felt', emotively and deeply, by the listener rather than listened to as background music. Each song stands up and shouts 'concentrate on me!' The question we must answer is whether Home Video have managed to pull it off successfully. They've definitely had a fair stab at the challenge; their unique sound, melancholy lyrics, heavy-on-the-head basslines and confidence to fuse two genres of music that more often than not steer clear of each other show that they have had the audacity to rise to the challenge of producing an epic album with skill and eagerness, but this doesn't necessarily make it any good, just confident. Confidence doesn't always breed success, in fact, more often than not, pride comes before a fall.
The overall, underlying question is, therefore: is it a complete success?
In a word, yes. It's dark, yet uplifting, moody and lyrically evocative. There are sensual and massive changes in tone and mood between songs. It had the ability to put a listener (me, being the guinea pig) into a kind of hypnotic trance state, where I was concentrating so hard on the music I took no notice of what else was happening around me. Every aspect of this album is more powerfully noticeable than within the productions of other musicians of a similar persuasion (I won't dare to write 'the same' as Home Video's sound seems to me to be quite unique in its own right) and this fact is making them stand out, by quite a long way, from the rest of the crowd.
Electronica and rock, when fused together in this fashion, complement each other very well. Home Video have taken the best aspects of each genre of music and forced them together in a curious love affair, and they have, in short, pulled it off beautifully. To use an awfully unoriginal analogy, think of the affair between dance and rock as the same as the relationship between the main characters in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Electronic dance music and rock music were never meant to be together, but when put together, especially by Home Video, it just works. The percussion has an almost 'club' feel to it - snare rolls and clap sounds notwithstanding- but happily, it's not quite the same as that. The percussion feels slower, more defined and more sensual. The rock aspects of the tracks, repeated clean guitar riffs and probably the best use of a tambourine seen in a good long time, don't feel out of place when placed over the top of the dance based percussion either, it just complements and adds to the sound of the whole. It's a 'full' sound; there's a lot to concentrate on, many different instruments adding to the whole central entity of the song. Not to mention what could be the best part, the haunting, almost mournful vocals throughout that can put a listener into a daze. It's almost like drowning in an ocean of sound.
The Automatic Process feels like it should be listened to in its entirety, rather than just individual tracks selected at random. This is not an album where one can go 'oh, shove number four on, I love that song.' Each song feels like it has been designed to follow on from one and be followed on by another, as if it is a piece of a puzzle, a stage of a journey that is necessary to complete the whole. Home Video have pieced together an epic work, designed to be followed rather than listened to, beginning with the malevolent pulses and melancholy lyrics of Accomplished but Dead, sending the listener on a journey through different styles of music, ranging from indie sounding guitar riffs and beats on The Smoke, to Chopin-esque piano strains on Business Transaction, what I would call 'sparkly' sounds on the introduction to Every Love That Ever Was and the epic, would-be dance anthem of the title track The Automatic Process. Home Video wind down their voyage of an album with the final song, the epic You Will Know What to Do. When I first listened to this album, I decided that the best thing to do was to listen to the whole thing through once, objectively and passively, without analysing any part of it. Once the album was over, I sat back and remembered the beginning of Accomplished but Dead and really got a sense that I had travelled somewhere musically, it felt like a long time and that a lot had happened since I had started listening to the beginning of the album.
It moved me.
If you want something substantial in your music collection, something you won't get tired of listening to again and again, and something you'll get to the end of and go 'Wow that was a journey', The Automatic Process is an album for you.