Album Reviews

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

(ATP) UK release date: 22 July 2013


Fuck Buttons - Slow FocusHow to follow up a beloved, unmistakably brilliant record like Tarot Sport? That synthy masterpiece, one with Olympics-soundtracking highlights like Surf Solar, established London’s Fuck Buttons as an electronic force with which to be reckoned and left listeners wondering where they might go next. What they’ve now unleashed upon the world is, in its way, comparatively restrained, darker, appropriately-named affair called Slow Focus, an album of much exciting musical complexity that compares with the blissful, awe-inspiring heights of Tarot Sport.

Slow Focus begins with the militaristic, brooding,  punishing Brainfreeze, almost the electronic equivalent of a Metz opening, with its pounding drums introducing you to an ominous world. Year Of The Dog follows, starting ambient and almost becoming a beat track with a time signature change almost as impressive as that of Animal Collective’s My Girls. Year Of The Dog’s synths never truly explode, but manage to disquiet the listener throughout the track’s duration. It’s akin to another classic English synth track: Pink Floyd’s On The Run. Third track and lead single The Red Wing is less of a shapeshifter, as it retains its hip hop beat (snares, kicks, hi-hats and all) throughout while still managing to become a journey of synths and bass, finding beauty and emotion in its ugly, uneasy oppressiveness.

As restrained as Slow Focus is in comparison to Tarot Sport, some tracks mirror the 2009 opus’s visceral nature, like Sentients – something of a sibling track to The Knife’s Full Of Fire. Unlike the Swedish duo’s work, however, Sentients actually becomes less intense over its six and a half minutes, adding in some warped vocals to replace the glitchiness of the former’s synths. And for anyone who might consider Slow Focus too serious, Prince’s Prize renders such claims moot by combining the old with the contemporary, its travelling arpeggio laser synth line establishing itself somewhere between medieval and baroque, its beat fast and laden with handclaps.

Just when you think that Slow Focus has dominated your earbuds enough, it ends with a combined 20 minute one-two punch of Stalker and Hidden XS. The former is a gorgeous, building, panning laser synth orchestral 10 minute journey that you want to last forever, and works best – as so much of Fuck Buttons’ work does – as loud as speakers will go. Stalker and The Red Wing cement a persistent theme on Slow Focus and in Fuck Buttons’ music in general: finding beauty in the ugly. Throughout the entire album, including also 10 minute closer Hidden XS, Slow Focus doesn’t so much visually suggest the grey cityscape of London from which the album came like, say, James Blake’s music does. It might more appropriately suit the bleakness of Russia, or perhaps the coldness of Sweden, with a hint of hip-hop and post-apocalyptic beats tossed in for good measure.

Despite the hilariously unbelievable image of world leaders watching the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and listening to Surf Solar and Olympians, Tarot Sport suggested that perhaps Fuck Buttons were primed for a larger audience. Slow Focus takes a step back from that imaginary world. It unveils its magic over multiple listens, proving to be exemplary of the concept of delayed gratification. It’s hard to tell whether Slow Focus will have the staying power of Tarot Sport, but what’s sure is that listeners will look back years from now, listen to the three album trajectory we’ve witnessed so far, and realize that Slow Focus is unmistakably Fuck Buttons, the logical continuation of the music produced by a duo who never strive to do something expected.


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More on Fuck Buttons
Bleep 10: Fuck Buttons, Mount Kimbie, Fennesz @ Barbican, London
London Gigs Diary: 3-9 February 2014
musicOMH’s Top 100 Albums Of 2013: 50-6
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Fuck Buttons – The Red Wing


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