Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

fuck-buttons-Slow-Focus-cover-art

Released: July 22, 2013

Label: ATP Recordings

Producer:  Andrew Hung, Benjamin John Power

Genre: Electronic, Drone, Experimental, Post-Rock

Tracklist:

01 Brainfreeze
02 Year of the Dog
03 The Red Wing
04 Sentients
05 Prince’s Prize
06 Stalker
07 Hidden XS

Fuck Buttons. Well their name is as strange as their music. Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power. Hung, influenced by Aphex Twin, and Power, a fan of Mogwai. They are hungry, curious and forever restless scavengers of equipment. They’ve worked on computer software, on Casio keyboards, on children’s toys, on old karaoke machines. When I saw them in interviews they were as I expected. Eager and curious. But their music is as approachable as an Egyptian tomb. On Slow Focus, their first album in four years, they remain devoted to their old forbidding techniques and equally awe-inspiring elements, that can create both fear, exhilaration and majesty. This album in general, manifests itself into the kind of big feelings that make us feel small.

Let’s take it from the top. From 2008’s Street Horrrsing, they get their start in the noise rock community.  But after that release they seemed to have transcended from that genre into their next niche. Some of their earliest material consists of distorted, screaming vocals. Sounds scary enough? Well that’s nothing compared to their latter work. Tarot Sport was so much larger and more ambitious than their debut that it gave them an unlikely career as festival headliners, and a piece of the album called “Surf Solar“, found its way into the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics! Along with two other track of theirs, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra.


Tarot Sport might have gotten them to the Olympics, but they’ve never sounded this, well, Olympian before. The difference is apparent from the opening seconds of the nine-minute “Brainfreeze.” The massive sounds we hear– a warped synth figure being pounded into shapes by hammering drums and a pistoning rhythm track– are lonelier and more remote than anything Fuck Buttons have made before. Tarot Sport, as big as it was, gestured slightly at human bodies, life and movement, with the glistening and rhythm-driven sound of “Surf Solar” evoking a rave festival full of people. On Slow Focus, there is no life on planet Earth any more. It’s as if it all died out. No more life, human bodies or movement. Just open hard surfaces and terrain, resonating and bouncing of miles at a time.

The album is self produced excellently (they should think about producing for others as well). Every sound is sculpted, shaped, molded, and polished like a fine working piece of factory steel equipment. Every sound is beautifully emptied out of feeling, but at the same time deep and resonant. Shifting from maximalist EDM to minimalist perfectionist music.

Each of the seven amazingly shaped tracks “speak” of a space. Halfway through “Brainfreeze”, for example, the sounds shift up an octave, as if pulling away from the background even further and further until we finally take a trip through the “Year of the Dog” to arrive at a hurricane called “The Red Wing”.  The hurricane sweeps through a shrieking city beginning with percussion and slowly adding more and more layers of it, until it just about disappears, leaving nothing but dead lands in the city. I know what someone might think at this point because I thought of it too. This kind of journey might get boring. But Fuck Buttons was quick to think that over because as you can see from the tracks, its structures are so multi-dimensional and fascinating they’ve got you hooked. On “Prince’s Prize” it’s like we are travelling through a whole new dimension, being prepared for something and when we finally arrive at “Stalker” its as though we are traveling in several different planes of existence at the same time!

There are no human feelings here, at least of the squishy kind. If you are fascinated by the people around you the same way you are fascinated by protozoa, you might identify uncomfortably with the world Slow Focus depicts.

Jayson Greene

There has always been anger and devastating menace in Fuck Buttons‘ music, but that’s only to counter balance all the light moments. At least that’s what what I would use to describe their other albums. On Slow Focus, except a slow one on “Prince’s Prize”, there are no such moments. Definitely one of the top mentions of the year.

“The Red Wing (Edit)”:

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