Medications - Completely Removed

For those of you who do not know, Medications is the band that rose, more or less, from the ashes of Faraquet, the Washington, DC, Dischord band whose run from 1997 to 2000 yielded a single full-length album, The View From This Tower, and a handful of singles, which were neatly repackaged as the collection Anthology 1997-98 a few years back. The number of devotees of core members Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter’s musical partnership increased exponentially during the time between Faraquet’s dissolution and the announcement of Medications' formation in 2004. While Devin and Chad went about their bidness, their music percolated in the headphones of countless fans of intricate, melodic, and aggressive music that would, for better or worse, typically be classified as Math Rock. Medications arrived to a following who might not have been more than peripherally aware of their previous group during it’s lifetime, but had learned about it since then, and now gave a whole lot of a fuck about their music.

Medications’ self-titled debut EP and first album, Your Favorite People All In One Place, were performed by Devin, Chad and drummer Andrew Becker. Becker’s drumming style is a signature of these releases. It is fantastically punishing and pushes the over-driven nature of the rest of the instrumentation and vocals. On their latest album, Completely Removed, that relentless energy is dialed back with the departure of Becker from the group, and the addition of Mark Cisneros. I hesitate to say that Cisneros has replaced Becker, though, as the group has now taken on a much more fluid idea of who plays what instrument. All three members of the band are very proficient on the common ones: guitar, bass, and drums. During live performances, they switch back and forth multiple times throughout a set, with Cisneros also adding occasional woodwinds, horns and keys to the mix. The overall tone of Completely Removed is less flashy than it’s predecessor, but the parts are more knotted and dense — there are even some unashamed guitar solos sprinkled throughout. Medications’ sound was heretofore defined (with a few exceptions) by a somewhat standard template of trebled-out distorted guitar, a booming picked bass, and franticly precise drumming. While that spirit is still alive and well with the band, the new album offers more variance in the tones and dynamics of all the instruments they use.

Melodically and harmonically, Completely Removed is a move in a different direction as well. These are, for the most part, happy songs. They don’t carry the paranoid and angry edge of so much of Medications’ previous output, and most exude a certain major-key joy. Like the closing refrain of “Long Day”, the first song to be released from Completely Removed, where Ocampo sings “Oh, the day is so long” repeatedly over a tightly muted chug. It doesn’t seem an exclamation of a beleaguered and resigned narrator, but a statement of triumph over the notion of time slipping by faster and faster with every day we live. “Kilometers and Smiles” is a song that could pass for an Abbey Road B-side, starting out as a prog-bass workout and peeling open into wordless vocal harmony that carries through a few meter changes. On album closer “Tame on the Prowl”, the band seems to be chasing the same pastoral pop dragons that Field Musicians David and Peter Brewis have been slaying for a few years now.

All told, Completely Removed is a healthy step forward for Medications. It’s the self-assured work of a group that isn’t worried about virtuosic posturing. It shows off through thoughtful composition and meticulously transparent production.



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