by / July 31st, 2013 /

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

 3/5 Rating

(ATP Recordings)

They say the destination isn’t everything, it’s the journey that matters, and this might very well be the case with Slow Focus. The third Fuck Buttons album savours the journey. There’s no determined endpoint in mind, but there’s a giddy thrill held within the constant rush of synths and momentous beats that make up its 42 minutes.

You’d be forgiven for asking “Are we there yet?” on more that one occasion, as what sounds fresh and pulsating on opener ‘Brainfreeze’ is reused several times before ‘Hidden Xs’ brings things to a close. Although these seven songs have some wildly differing origins, there’s a heady kineticism that dominates Slow Focus and eventually takes hold of every song. ‘Brainfreeze’ and ‘Year of the Dog’ set the tone, the former with cavernous drums and whirring, analogue synth that lurks on the fringes before powering overhead. ‘Year of the Dog’ continues in the same vein but takes on an even more frantic energy with quickly oscillating keys and the album’s lone vocal interjection in the form of a backing choir. Slow Focus is defined in these two songs as a record that is both concurrently murky and shimmering and always aiming big, but what sounds inspiring at first is gradually diluted as the album wears on.

‘The Red Wing’ initially marks a left turn, ambling at a slower pace with an hip-hop beat that both whistles and grinds along. It’s a detour that continues on ‘Prince’s Prize’, a jittering mix of ghostly effects and quirky, bouncing synths. Both songs, however, evolve and come to repeat the movements made on earlier tracks.

There’s so much going on, with tones and time signatures clashing throughout. This proclivity of contrasting musical elements is constantly abuzz, charged with an anxious energy, and it’s amazing that this album sounds as good as it does – a testament to the skills of Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power, self-producing for the first time. The closing combo of ‘Stalker’ and ‘Hidden Xs’ – twenty minutes of building, tunnel-visioned electronic that teeters on the edge of catharsis – come closest to explaining where the pair’s heads are at. ‘Hidden Xs’, and its central riff in particular, sounds extraterrestrial, like a distress signal being sent to another planet.

It’s only on these final tracks, fittingly enough, that the destination becomes clear. Epic is the default; the scope is mesmerising, and the duo’s eyes and ears are locked on a skyward point, ever-grasping for some sonic utopia that lies frustratingly out of reach. The album begins as seemingly long and aimless journey, but as it becomes more clear and Fuck Buttons’ vision less solipsistic, Slow Focus reveals itself to be a rewarding listen – one that treats epic as a starting point and can only hope to maintain its sense of wonder while maintaining scope with ease.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube