1 January 2014

Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus


It is impossible to keep up with everything that is released in one year - there are not enough hours in the day.  So because of this, the album you are reading about missed out on being reviewed in time for the album of the year.  It would have been nice to get it done in time, but such is life.  Anyway there is the way of the world, and here we are with the delightfully titled Fuck Buttons and their 2013 release 'Slow Focus'.  Hailing from Bristol in the south west of England, the duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have been going since 2004 and this is their third album.  I have heard the name being bounced around and have always been interested in the concept of electronic drone, and now I have a chance to immerse myself in this work.  The cover is of a piece of jewellery which is very striking against a black background. Produced by themselves, this record has seven tracks to convince me that it is worth going through the rest of the catalogue; so in the words of Kurt Cobain - here we are now, entertain us.....

Starting with the grinding pulsating star that is "Brainfreeze" which for 8 minutes is one of the most intense tracks that I had the pleasure to listen to last year.  It is like being carpet bombed by noise and sets this album up with a massive task of trying to follow one of the best tracks that was released in 2013.  Not an easy task for anyone I would imagine.  The edge that "Brainfreeze" has is sharp and the overall desolation of the track is remarkable.  But instead of going for more sonic harsh environment, they release an almost subtle diatribe with "Year Of The Dog".  With the most basic and simple of turns they keep you interested by making a direct mirror to "Brainfreeze", they don't try to better their opening, they make something much more interesting and hypnotic.  It does not need the driving drums; it has haunting keys and notes that make it a delight for the brief time it exists.

"The Red Wing" comes next and has a much more structured opening till the fuzz and distortion kicks in.  It is almost like some old school R&B number then the noise is back which makes the track take on a different form. Whilst is has a fast paced drum, not quiet manic; just steady and constant - the music over the top is much more slower, measured and intense with an almost jazz like pitch that goes on to an almost euphoric bend in the middle. This band have been perfecting their craft for a while this is that they are well trained in making a piece of music that will take the listener away to a separate mind place.  "Sentients" is next with an almost plastic pipe ala Stomp opening which drops massive breaking bass drum beats that goes into an almost Aphex Twin type of drone that does not really have anything else playing in the back of it.  It is almost minimalist for what the band have been doing for the first three tracks until you get to the half way point when the feedback comes back into the forefront of the album with the high keys again.  Still proving very interesting, but "Sentients" is so far the weakest track of the album.

With "Prince's Prize" they have a chilling and eerie break down that makes this a hard track to love.  It keeps on coming and makes the world seem very claustrophobic and scary, but it does not really stick for me and whilst I cannot find anything wrong with it, I cannot find anything right with it either.  Maybe it is because it is so brief it does not get time to expand.  However, this cannot be levelled at "Stalker" - this ten minute plus track has plenty of room to bring the mystery back to this album and it does it in fantastic style.  The grind and mystery is back and you can hear the Mogwai influence on the band at this point. With just a few extra minutes that some of the other tracks were lacking, this is as graceful a track and it is also almost trance like in nature.  Ending the album is the equally as long "Hidden X's" which is actually the perfect way to end this album with an old school opening and gentle main musical quote and the noise just keeps going out in the background.  It just guides the album to a fantastic ending that is very pleasing to hear.


So by the time I got to the end of the album I have to admit that the middle section did make the album suffer a little bit. A few of the songs were just a few minutes too short to be honest and needed a little more breathing space, but this is what the buttons wanted to release - so to them it was right.  It those tracks were fuller, this would have been one of the misses of 2013; the opening three songs and ending are really good, but it is just an average album if truth be told.  A bit of a shame as they sound so full and fantastic, but it is enough to pick my interest in the rest of their work and I look forward to hear if they release anything else.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there


Best track - Brainfreeze

You can purchase the album from amazon here

You can visit the Fuck Buttons tumblr account (no big website)

You can listen to the album on Spotify here


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