REVIEW: Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

It’s a tricky proposition for instrumental music to grab the listener’s attention. Given the absence of lyrics (or vocals in general if the lyrics are unintelligible) there is an increased necessity to draw the audience in with the melody and fill in the gap. Bands like Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor have had quite a bit of success in the past using instrumentals to craft their own signature sound. One band that has shown that they can keep up with these greats is Bristol, England’s Fuck Buttons.

On Slow Focus, which clocks in at a little over 50 minutes, Fuck Buttons show that they can pull listeners in, get their message across loud (very loud, actually) and clear, and leave in flash. Their message? Genre-hopping electronic music is alive and well in 2013 and Fuck Buttons are proving that they can match the energy of these instrumental masters that came before them. “Year of the Dog” starts out with warped, ripple-like synths (think “In the Grass” by Animal Collective) and moves into a hyper-caffeinated beat not unlike something off the recent TRON soundtrack. The difference between this and “In the Grass” is the presence of screeching violin samples as if something has gone wrong with the message “Year of the Dog” is trying to put across.

“The Red Wing”, Fuck Buttons' lead single off the new album, hops more into the trip-hop side of EDM and electronica. The band has stated that more of live drums were used during Slow Focus (as opposed to a decided lack of them on 2009’s Tarot Sport) and no where is this more apparent on “The Red Wing”. The edited version sent out before the album released saw Fuck Buttons trimming away much of the fat of the original version found on the album. After one listen to the unedited version, it is apparent that the fat is needed to compliment Slow Focus. The angry buzz of the synths, surprisingly enough, blends well with the hip-hop beat that would make Portishead proud.

“Brainfreeze” also displays the new presence of live drums (as opposed to sampled drums on Tarot Sport) with a tribal collection of war drums leading the track, and the whole album for that matter, into an aggressive monster of electronic noise. The track gives the listener a taste of what is to come with similar, but not as buzzsaw-like, synths (more like warped insect buzzing) and sporadic drum beats.

Drawing influence from a previous decade in much the same way that Daft Punk did earlier this year on Random Access Memories, Fuck Buttons skip past the French duo’s love ballad to the '70s and straight into the synth drenched '80s. “Prince’s Prize” sounds like fast-forwarded version of any castle level in Super Mario. The pace increases as it gets more complex in the sense of more sounds and samples added with everything from Space Invaders-esque laser beams to sounds eerily familiar to Mario’s jump sound.

The time that Fuck Buttons has spent away from the music world (save for a surprising collaboration for the Opening Olympic Ceremony) has refreshed them and given them time to create a solid, heart-pacing, album. More important though is the realization that if they continue down this path of drastic sonic changes on each album to increasingly solid results, Fuck Buttons will soon be taking their rightful place along the instrumental greats that came before.