Medicine and Duty- Don’t Use ‘a’ (Foolproof Projects)



Nothing is certain. This is the latest album from  Brighton’s premiere live experimentalists, Medicine and Duty, but even that should be qualified: it’s not ‘new’ anymore, as it came out at the end of last year, and to be honest I don’t know if it’s still their latest. Technically, too, it should probably be called a mini-album, being just seven songs long and less than half an hour in duration. Nothing is certain. And I’m not even certain of that.

The first thing that strikes the listener is that this is a far more mechanically-generated record than their previous releases, or indeed the band’s usual live shows. Matt Colegate and Jack Cooper have left their guitars at home and are credited instead with ‘electronics,’ but they are electronics of a particularly dense and fearsome nature. You could dance to this, but it’s not a ‘Dance’ record.  Andy Pyne’s drumming heads boldly out on open-ended expeditions into overgrown and rarely-trod rhythmic territory, where robotic birds fall keening from dark skies and ancient humming force fields wait to trap the unwary. Holy Fuck are another band who started out along a similar path recently, but after the primitive rave-inflected wave oscillations of the album’s opening track Medicine and Duty leave them far behind,  exchanging nods with Sunburned Hand of the Man instead as they pass each other further into the wilderness.     

The album’s title seems like an injunction never to take the obvious, easy option; Eno’s oblique strategies reduced down to one basic principle. The individual track titles give little away, but point to a general aesthetic: ‘Jury Rigged,’ ‘Maths on Fire,’ ‘The Blind Toolmakers,’ ‘Horizontal Tracking,’ etc. Although all three band members are credited with vocals, the tracks are essentially instrumentals, with any lyrics rendered either inaudible or incomprehensible, chanting, wailing and speaking in tongues: the ghosts in the machine, making their presence felt. Meanwhile, the music moves from claustrophobic industrial noise to oddly beautiful echoes of crystalline jungles, from surreal semi-oriental landscapes to the abstract language of mechanised desire, much like a slim volume of short stories by the late JG Ballard.

Listen: the machines are singing.   

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