[9 June 2010]
Since their formation in 2003, Medications have been known for channeling their musical pasts in Washington DC heavyweight groups like Smart Went Crazy and Faraquet into off-kilter rhythms and interweaving guitars. On Completely Removed, the band regrouped and decided to record and mix the record in singer/guitarist Devin Ocampo’s home studio, Treehouse. By giving their arrangements more time to breathe, they also seemed to decidedly move away from the unusual rhythms they were once known for.
Usually when a band decide to stop being experimental and play it safe, their music suffers. In the case of Medications though, their choice to step back from their signature sound has resulted in one of their strongest records to date. Focusing more on a standard verse-chorus-verse structure, songs like “Seasons” and “We Could Be Others” serve as catchy reminders as to how tight Ocampo and bassist Chad Molter can be when they eschew the experimental for the straightforward. Incorporating a more poppy element into their sound also works in Medications’ favor, especially on the keyboard-friendly “Tame on the Prowl”.
Still, that’s not to say that every song on Completely Removed follows a traditional structure or has no experimental bits, as the jazzy drum fills of “Long Day”, the call and response vocals and brash guitar and organ melodies of “Rising to Sleep”, and soft percussion brushes and subtle horns of “Brasil ‘07” all indicate. Medications even ditch their electric guitars for acoustic ones on several tracks, including the latter song and the tribal-influenced “Country Air”, proving that they aren’t afraid of stepping out of their comfort zone and scaling back their sound.
If anything, Completely Removed represents how brilliant the musical partnership is between Ocampo and Molter. The two accomplished musicians have known each other since their high school days, and their ability to build and play off of one another is displayed all over the album. Rich harmonies and spiraling, in-your-face guitars turn a regular catchy song like “Home Is Where We Are” into an original head-bopping jam, the clear highlight of the entire record.
The only complaint that even comes to mind with such a solid album is how short the songs are (most clock in around three minutes). It might be interesting if Medications jammed a bit more on some of their tracks and toyed with different structural ideas, but that’s not a serious issue. On Completely Removed, it’s clear that Ocampo and Molter have finally found their own niche, achieving the perfect balance of experimental and traditional.