Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

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Having somehow convinced the London 2012 organisers that their frankly alarming music should soundtrack the Olympics opening ceremony, the band with the career-defying name are back. In the five years since Tarot Sport burst forth, pre-loaded with punishing yet danceable, electronics, Fuck Buttons have apparently shoved mainstream culture into a parallel dimension. It must be slightly galling, as well as lucrative, to have your best efforts cheerfully lapped up to generate family-friendly atmosphere. Tarot Sport was a much more widescreen effort than their debut, Street Horrrsing, so the question for their new album, Slow Focus, is what can they come up with that Seb Coe won’t like?

There has been no big change of direction, at least not on the surface. The opening track has a title, ‘Brainfreeze’, that represents its sound pretty accurately and sound that takes off where Tarot Sport left off. There is a furious kettle drum tattoo from, probably, a vast, hostile army advancing over the horizon and blotting out the sun as they come, accompanied by huge, head-numbing keyboard chords. It mesmerises the listener, leaving them incapable and totally at the mercy of the Buttons. Then there is a let off – we’ve been spared, for now. ‘Year of the Dog’ takes a step back, deploying Steve Reich-style repetitive chords to create space and calm, albeit with added muffled squeals and a revving phaser. It is clear that Andrew Hung and Ben Power are on top form, taking their sound to the next level for the second album in a row.
There are five more slabs of sound to come, the final two tracks both over 10 minutes long, and each has a wealth of detail under the rocket ship keyboards and pounding beats. Bells, descant and counterpoint melodies on ‘The Red Wing’; rim shots and rubber bands on ‘Sentients’; Nintendo effects on Prince’s Prize, which sounds like a 90s game soundtrack played on a sound system the size of a tower block. ‘Stalker’ and ‘Hidden XS’ are meditative and vast, strangely melancholy space concertos in which the party seems carry on long after everyone involved has crumbled to dust.

Slow Focus operates on a galactic rather than a terrestrial level, and there is a cinematic quality to the album as tracks open out, revealing a vast, terrifying universe. The scale of the music is awe-inspiring, but also a little cold – threatening, hostile, and in dependent of human influence or concern. It is strangely reminiscent of Disaster Area, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, the loudest band in the universe, who played to their audience from a neighbouring planet. It is undoubtedly the album of the summer so far, packed with original, troubling dance music. We will be hearing Slow Focus as the soundtrack to something before long, something we cannot yet imagine.