Category Archives: Fuck Buttons

Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons Slow FocusFuck Buttons: Slow Focus
ATP Recordings (2013)

It’s funny how time can change your outlook on a record. Sometimes it’s circumstance, sometimes it’s the quality of the music itself but there are occasions when a record you love loses its shine or an album you forget about suddenly becomes mind-blowing. In the case of Tarot Sport, Fuck Button’s last full length release, I was totally into it for a while but eventually its candy coloured glow became sickeningly sweet and I lost interest.

So I was a little sceptical about the arrival of Slow Focus. But after hearing good things about it from a number of people I gave it a crack and was pleasantly surprised. The boys have done themselves a service by pushing aside the techno flourishes and replacing them with a grimier, dubbier palette. This isn’t quite bass music, but the focus is on deep grooves and lolling rhythms, densely layered drones highlighted by intricate melodies and spidery wavelengths of noise.

Perhaps best of all, the tracks on Slow Focus evolve and mutate as they play out, often finishing somewhere completely different to where they kicked off from. In the past Fuck Buttons have happy to ride out a concept for 10 minutes,  using repetition to lure the listener into a zen-like state. On Slow Focus, they’ve matured enough to take us on a series of psychedelic journeys into swirling miasma of distortion. The bombast of Tarot Sport has been paired back to reveal more of the experimental expeditions that caused so many of us to fall in love with Fuck Buttons in the first place.

I’ve had this record for quite a while now, and so far I’m still listening to it. I’m still interested and excited by it. Will I still feel this way in a year’s time? Who knows. For now, Slow Focus is a fun ride and I’m totally psyched about seeing them play again at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in October.

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New Release: Fuck Buttons

Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
ATP Recordings (2009)

Tarot Sport

From out of nowhere, early in 2008, Fuck Bottoms dropped Street Horrsing and managed to make buzz, hiss and drone palatable for an audience outside of the noise scene. When I saw them play at the ATP festival on Mt Buller in January 2009, people were dancing. Dancing! And I’m not talking about fucked up hippies waving their arms around like Hare Krishna, I’m talking about kids with Sunn O))) tattoos and Metal t-shirts bopping their heads along with the freaks on stage making a bone splintering racket with Fisher Price toys. Amazing.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Tarot Sport when I first heard it. Fuck Buttons have taken their sound into a glitzier and more dance-friendly arena, with the IMG_0049help of rock/dance crossover guru Andrew Weatherall. I wanted less rhythm and psychedelic keyboards, and more dense layers of swirling drone.

The thing is, I eventually realised I was approaching Tarot Sport from the wrong perspective. It’s no longer about adorning noise with subtle melodies to expand its horizons; Fuck Buttons have been there and done that. Now they’re taking the decay and erosion of drone and its noise brethren, and attacking popular forms of music from within. Tarot Sport mixes Post Punk extremes with the manic euphoria of Acid House. The four-to-the-floor rhythms that drive most of these tracks might be straight out of the nightclub scene, but the blown-out, in-the-red tones and the mantra like repetition won’t appeal to mindless bunnies.

IMG_0064It’s a much more cinematic record than its predecessor, especially on tracks like Olympia and Space Mountain with their soaring crescendos and bombastic beats. It’s not hard to see these tunes framing the finale to a sci-fi flick or British heist movie, albeit of the independent kind. At the other end of the spectrum, Fuck Buttons channel the playfulness of Black Dice on Phantom Limb and Rough Steez by hurling around sketchy rhythms and colourful squawks.

Rhythm is the key differentiator between Street Horrrsing and Tarot Sport; it’s a much more propulsive record. And maybe it says something that my favourite parts of Tarot Sport are the moments between each track, where the sound is ephemeral, weightless and blurry. It’s easy to lose yourself in these dreamy moments, before the boys get back to baking a spongy, layered cake smothered in colourful icing. And it isn’t the sugar high that keeps me coming back for more. It’s Tarot Sports’ sly ability to make every climax a penultimate one, so that euphoria is always enticingly out of reach.

Top Ten of 2008

What better way to kick off this blog, then to recap your humble author’s top ten for 2008?

During 2007 I was all about exploring the weirder and noisier side of the musical spectrum. However, 2008 heralded a return to the joy of…well…actual song writing. Which isn’t to say there aren’t any blackened pits of noise in the following list of favourite albums released in 2008.

Bloc Party – Intimacy (Wichita/Vice)

bloc-party

I’m not gonna’ make any bones about my love of Bloc Party’s pop. If it makes you feel tough than go ahead and tease the band for being a success. Deep down you know Bloc Party channel the best of British post punk from the 80s and give it a light coat of poptastic plastic without losing their balls. They can write a hook like nobody’s business and then, in the blink of an eye kick your ass with a rhythmic, effects laden freak-out. Another gem from an exciting act flirting with the mainstream.

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrsing (ATP Recordings)

fuck-buttonsWhere the fuck (pardon the pun) did these guys come from? Skull crushing electronic drone and tribal drums, that waltz with music box melodies and Fischer Price screams. It’s heavy as fuck, but somehow it conjures up a kaleidoscope of sunflowers, My Little Ponies and Rothko. I’ve played this record to the bone, and their performance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival on Mt Buller was mind blowing.

Foals – Antidotes (Warner Music/Transgressive Records)
foals_antidotesReading through Mojo one day I noticed a tiny blurb about Foals in a list of ‘up and comers’. The raggedy looking kids in the accompanying photo intrigued me so I picked up a copy of this, their debut album and freaked the fuck out. The rhythm section is all reggae, ska and dub jams but the intricate and multi layered guitar harmonies are the bastard sons of some bong-misted (dare I say it) math rock outfit. It’s dreamy but danceable, somewhat earnest, but oh so fun.

Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. (Kranky)
deerhunterI love a band that evolves over the course of time, and on their third release Deerhunter steer further away from their jangly noise beginnings and deeper into 60s pop. Albeit a slightly obtuse take on 60s pop, where the sun peeks out through passing clouds, but its catchy and hummable nonetheless. It’s also a major feat that Microcastles was released with a second disc of material, Weird Era Cont. that eclipses the tunes on the original album.

Sunn O))) – Domkirke (Southern Lord)
sunno_domkirkeThis amazing live, limited addition, vinyl only album was a true highlight of 2008. Recorded in a Norwegian cathedral, and featuring Earth’s Steve Moore on organ, Domkirke takes the surreal and meditative nature of Sunn O))) to a new place. Cloaks donned, and dry ice aplenty, OMally and Anderson continue to replace the guitar with whatever else they can find to conjure the low-end frequencies they cherish. Shifting horns, vibrating bass, organs and electronic squall are given plenty of room to bathe in the cathedral’s acoustics. The guitars, when they do arise, are reminiscent of the atonal twang OMally plays with in his side project KTL. The end result is a much warmer and mysterious Sunn O))) than you might be used to.

Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull (Southern Lord)
earthSpeaking of Earth, this gorgeous album fell under the radar upon its release. Although it continues the desert and tumbleweeds theme of its predecessor, 2005’s Hex, the arrangements on Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull are nowhere near as sparse. A broader scope of instruments and guitar sounds makes for a much fuller sound. Achingly slow, totally lush; this leaves their early drone records for dead.

Snowman – The Horse, the Rat and the Swan (Dot Dash Recordings)
snowmanThe Cramps have mated with the Birthday Party and produced Aussie band Snowman. The group’s third album is their strongest to date. Dark, brooding and violent rock that twists and turns where you least expect it. Even their ‘ballads’ are threatening. The first few tracks are relentless, but the ride smooths out into a creepy trip through a midnight swampland. Forget The Horrors, turn up Snowman.

Gojira – The way of all flesh (Listenable Records)
gojiraThis is my first foray into French metal band, Gojira and I’m completely hooked. It’s awesome to find a metal band that’s NOT banging on about the typical metal topics, Gojira are passionate environmentalists and they’re pissed off about the state of the earth. At times they have the powerful groove of classic Pantera, sometimes they get all technical like Meshuggah, but the dual guitar harmonies also give their sound an old school flavour. Awesome driving music.

Lightspeed Champion – Falling off the Lavender Bridge (Domino Recordings)
lightspeedI know little about Dev Hynes’ much-hyped previous band The Testicicles. I picked up his latest project, Lightspeed Champion based on a favourable review and discovered a real gem. The folk-tinged tunes are quirky in a Pavement way, and his geeky, self-conscious lyrics are endearing. He sights Korn, Hip Hop and Crowded House as sources of inspiration which makes me desperate to hear what he comes up with next.

Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna (Warp Records)
ganggangI was introduced to Gang Gang Dance only recently and am currently devouring this album and their back catalogue. Imagine the sound of two cars crashing; one being New York’s Hip Hop scene, and the other New Yorks 80’s No Wave scene. Throw in some world music and that’s kinda what Gang Gang Dance sound like. Oh, and sometimes they sound like Coctaeu Twins. Fucking amazing.

Honourable mentions
AutechreQuaristice (Warp)
Kings of LeonOnly by Night (RCA Records)
Genghis TronBoard up the House (Relapse)
Sonic YouthSY8 Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth (SYR)
Atlas SoundLet the Blind Lead Those who can see but cannot Feel (Kranky)