Live Music Reviews

Fuck Buttons @ KOKO, London

20 April 2010


It’s been a meteoric couple of years for drone-electro duo Fuck Buttons. Difficult enough to ignore because of their Daily Mail-bothering moniker, Andy Hung and Ben Power have turned in two highly acclaimed records in two years, and now sit snugly alongside ATP labelmates Spiritualized and festival luminaries Godspeed You! Black Emperor as purveyors of blistering and uplifting soundscapes.

Beloved of festival audiences looking for an edgy thrill, Fuck Buttons’ music seems to exist in a kind of dance hinterland, too aggressively noisenik to really dance to, but too uplifting to simply gaze downcast at your Converses. Tonight, at their biggest solo gig so far, the pair are as energetic as two people can be while twiddling knobs in front of a roomful of people. But the lingering impression is that official venues aren’t their natural habitat.

First – how exactly do you engage a roomful of sober-ish people in the early evening, when your stage presence is generally limited to lunging across a trestle table to push a couple of (fuck) buttons? Power does as much as is humanly possible – a couple of blasts on a bongo stagefront are as much as he can do before being torn back to his laptop. Some nifty lighting and a mirrorball sometimes divert attention, but it’s a problem that a few visuals might solve.

The trouble is, with Fuck Buttons’ aural onslaught, it’s difficult to replicate with a live band (a la Faithless or Basement Jaxx) – and nor would you want to. The group’s genius is that they create huge, incredibly detailed soundscapes that sound like order being wrenched out of mechanical chaos. Whatever their live deficiencies, songs like the opening Surf Solar or new single Olympians are incredible – taking the top end off your hearing and pounding your senses as wave after wave of euphoric – if incredibly beefy – noise pours over you.

At their best, Fuck Buttons’ music is almost transcendental – the glitchy Rough Steez and the incredible, wall of noise Colours Move are songs that raise the hairs on the back of the neck as much as they reduce knee ligaments to jelly. But there’s little modulation to the set. While they play a wide range of tracks from both Tarot Sport and Street Horrrsing, it all begins to blend into one long drone by the end of the first hour. Encore track Sweet Love For Planet Earth is an exception, however. Completely different to its album incarnation, it is slighter, sweeter and – whisper it – accessible.

The duo depart without acknowledging the audience. While Fuck Buttons are perhaps not the most engaging of live acts, there’s no question that their music should be listened to – and appreciated – by an audience. Whether that audience should be at KOKO, or any venue more suited to honed live acts like The Gaslight Anthem, is that venue is up for debate. But they’ve given enough tonight to suggest that they’ll continue to be a force to be reckoned with.


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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