Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus (4 stars)

An album entirely in control of its mood and emotional aesthetic

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Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

(ATP Recordings)

It’s clear that something special is in store from the first seconds of ‘Brainfreeze,' the track which opens this third album from Bristolian electronic juggernaut Fuck Buttons, aka Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power. It thunders in on an echoing clatter of drums, sounding for all the world like we've mistakenly been sent an album of Led Zeppelin outtakes. Then the synthesisers move in, scything sustained chords, rising and falling as the beat goes on, a fog of martial terror swooping around the listener. It sounds bloody brilliant and goes on forever (8 minutes and thirty-four seconds to be precise), dragging us off in new directions as the drums cease and then rise again.

The fun fact to quote about Fuck Buttons is that their music was used in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, but they’re not exactly Emeli Sandé. This music remains beautifully out-there; instrumental expeditions into fearsome landscapes of the imagination. ‘Year of the Dog’ is wonderful: a chorus of funereal voices and what sounds like discordant stringed instruments being pressed (all sounds doubtless created artificially) over an oscillating wave of agitated, buzzing-fly beeps. Then ‘The Red Wing’ goes somewhere else entirely with a loping hip hop beat and what sounds like a recording of someone whistling used as a percussive instrument.

In truth, it’s a record whose earliest stages are the best, and the industrial clank of ‘Sentients’ or the slightly meandering dynamics of ‘Prince’s Prize’ create something of a furrow in the middle. But mainly the 7 tracks here add up to one extremely fine piece of work, an album entirely in control of its mood and emotional aesthetic, whose sounds open up new worlds and possibilities in the imagination of the listener. In ‘Stalker’ there’s a heavy hint of John Carpenter, surely a big influence, while the climactic ‘Hidden XS’ leaves us with a perfect encapsulation of their dynamic: a symphony of austere artificial sounds built into something shot through with compelling humanity.

Fuck Buttons - Olympians (High Contrast Remix)

Fuck Buttons - "The Red Wing" (Official Music Video)

Fuck Buttons - Sweet Love For Planet Earth

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