What is Memex? ‘Memex’ is a proposition of Vannevar Bush, who in a 1945 essay entitled ‘As We May Think’, foresaw a device that would compress records, books and communications – every individual’s inputs and outputs for the expansion of collective knowledge. There are perhaps two ways of looking at this as we consider London based Duologue’s new four track EP of the same name, a prelude to a promised and eagerly anticipated second album.
The first aspect is that the collective memory allows lessons to be learnt on the largest possible scale; individual desires and motives replaced by a far broader understanding of that which is beneficial to mankind en mass. This was the manifestly good ‘Memex’ that Bush envisioned, a dream of our collective past errors directing us to brighter futures, a dream smothered shortly after publication by the scorched earth and powdered buildings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The second aspect is that ‘Memex’, devoid of emotion, simply becomes a record of that which existed collectively, an individual’s perspective subsumed by the greater array of dispassionate polarities. It’s yes or no, no other answer can collectively exist. Duologue have crafted a portrait that neatly allows both aspects to be explored, presenting two faces of collectivism – a yearning desire for the past to present future direction and an isolationist withdrawal from the emotionless mass.
Intriguingly, website visuals created by the band for the launch of ‘Memex’ do little to dispel the notion that theirs is a vision of saturated contrasts. Each track begins in an equally bleak landscape, so while Digby-Bell’s vocals suspend airily and piano chords echo distantly to announce the arrival of ‘Memex’, we find ourselves travelling through a remote snow-covered road that presents many junctions, but little by way of direction.
‘Operator’ transports to a remote ice sheet, replete with singular communications mast. Very clever – the isolationist needs you to listen, or perhaps to pay attention to you: “I feel so close to you when you’re far away” – perspective offered anew with the benefit of distance. The conclusion “Now isn’t it better not to rely on each other?” hangs rhetorically in the still frozen air, a comment uttered by another painfully reconsidered.
‘Traps’ glitches, trips and hurries through a chiselled featureless stone tunnel. Where are we? We’re “on the inside looking inside”, a circular referencing point that ends only when we break from the tunnel to a forest clearing. Our freedom from stone bondage is short lived as we find ourselves unable to progress from the clearing, our hopes raised and our view altered for the better, our confinement however remains the same.
The final track ‘Bodylog’, is, in our opinion the best track on ‘Memex’ and one of the best tracks we’ve heard this year. A concoction of fuzzed guitar dissonance, clipped percussion and melting electronica that swells to form a body of fluid melody over which Digby-Bell’s vocals hover as a benevolent spirit, playing on the face of the waters. Fittingly, it’s a song of two acts.
Act one develops Duologue’s message of dislocated collective loneliness through a full blooded, wide mouthed assault on the apathetic: “Let’s be reasonable, be reasonable” intones Digby-Bell to a yawning silence from a world with no ground to give. Act Two, and the veil drops and defences relax with remarkable brevity. “You stole my heart”… “more or less”. Did you really think this would be an unguarded connection? ‘Bodylog’ visuals depict ghosted blocks of homes, whether by natural or man-made disaster, this could be Sarajevo, it could be Syria, it could be post Tsunami Japan. It’s entirely desolate.
‘Memex’ is visceral and surprising. Surprising that through the stretched spaces of melody, claustrophobia seeps. Surprising that through the constricting lyrics we witness the greatest of expanses. Duologue demand that you listen within their landscapes, yet their landscapes roll effortlessly beyond the horizon, so the overwhelming feeling found within the containment is curiously – freedom.
There’s a crown available for depicting fretful societal induced paranoia through electronica spattered guitars and sliced percussive loops. For now Duologue pace. Digby-Bell thinks ‘It’s always later than you think’ but if we’ve learnt anything about Duologue, it’s that there is always an equal and opposite. Time therefore, is very much on their side.
Here’s the Duologue Q&A:
The new ‘Memex EP’ sounds fantastic. Was there anything this time round in the recording process that you weren’t expecting?
Thanks. I guess this time we had the experience of putting out a record, what worked, what didn’t and then the experience of gigging it together. Through that it became more apparent what we enjoyed as a band, what the crowd responded too and where we wanted to focus musically. I think its redoubled our resolve to do what we want to and not worry about the consequences. As a result our focus has been more electronic, particularly rhythmically, because it feels more natural to us and really it is the cornerstone of the band.
The songs were recorded deep in the wintry countryside – how much of an influence do you feel the surroundings had on the atmosphere of the record?
We always write in little three week bouts or so, and each has its own atmosphere depending on the time of year, who is there and the general mood at the time. Working through January is a great time, there’s little else to do and it always feel like you are starting afresh with the new year. I think though that didn’t really directly affect the record it was more the preceding four months where Tim & I were writing bits that led into this session.
Was it a conscious decision to isolate yourselves?
Sort of. Writing and recording in London just doesn’t feel inspiring. Getting up and dragging yourself across town on the underground can never rival waking up in the middle of nowhere and having easy access to the music and to go outside and take breaks to clear the head. It allows us all to stay together and work late when we want too and makes it a much more collective and immersive experience.
The name ‘Duologue’ implies entering into conversation or collaboration with another – who do you imagine the band are looking to engage in a dialogue?
I’m glad you think so! To be honest the name originated when there were two of us and when we hooked up with the guys we decided to keep the name as we preferred the meaning you have attached you it – but rarely people do! I think at the most basic we want to engage anyone who is willing to listen and experience our music, and beyond that be totally open. It really is rewarding every time someone sings a lyric or says they love your music, it certainly provides energy to keep pushing forward.
What’s the relationship between performing live and producing studio material?
It really varies – this time however we have worked backwards, recording and producing any way we felt fit and are now working out how to bring this to life and trying to be bolder with the live set, integrating live drums (still electronic of course) and more exclusively performance based sections. I guess when you first start there is that pressure to sound as good as you can and minimise risk, whereas now we are starting to focus on delivering a different experience live and allowing ourselves more freedom to keep it exciting for us.
An evil overlord decides to wipe the 90’s from history. His methods and motives are unclear, but probably malevolent. Which movement or group would you save?
Christ – dark days. Or then again is it…. well I’m damned if I am saving Brit-pop. It was great at the time but I don’t think its legacy stays. Not sure if this is within the rules but I would go for the entire back catalogue of Warp Records through the 90’s – I’m sure we can call it a movement? Some absolutely mind blowing records and classics from Aphex Twin, LFO, Kenny Larkin, Autechre, Drexciya, Squarepusher, and loads I would need to sit down and listen for the first time after this apocalypse.
Since starting out as musicians, who are the top 3 bands you’ve met that deserve more recognition?
Post War Years – we gigged with last year and they put out their first record about the same time as us. They were great live and I really enjoyed their record but it didn’t really get much exposure – worth a listen.
Throwing Snow – we are proud to say we got him to support us at one of our early gigs, pre going to the RBMA academy, and supporting Radiohead (see we were there way before them!). Anyway some interesting and varied electronic production.
Wild Swim – they have only had their first EP out I think. We met these guys last year, and had them to support us at XOYO. They are recording an album and I look forward to hearing it and expect good things from them.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with, but haven’t yet had the opportunity?
Yeah – a number of people – probably more instrumentalists who have skills we simply don’t, but it feels that collaborations come over time once you have more confidence in what you are doing and so there’s no rush.
If I decided to wander deep into the psychedelic wilderness with only some headphones and ‘Memex’ for company, what sort of landscapes and revelations do you hope it would suggest?
Well I think beyond doubt it’s pretty bleak. Wintry wildernesses, and huge landscapes. In fact check out our website which I built with some geekery that tries to afford you this but exploring google maps with some messed up effects. That’s the idea we were going for. Whether or not it worked is to be discussed……
As for the revelations, there is something clearly indistinguishable about the vocal which allows you to piece together your own puzzle and draw meaning of your own, so that is entirely up to you.
Finally, if the band were born in a time before laptops, synthesizers and electric guitars were invented, what sort of music do you imagine you’d be making?
Well hopefully for whatever period it was we’d be trying to do something different. The aim of the band is to produce music we love that develops and drawers on all influences we have. So who know in future it may be fully accapella – I doubt it but never say never.
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