A lot has changed for Fuck Buttons since their last album in 2009. Both members of the Bristol duo have released side projects and they are now national institutions thanks to the Olympic opening ceremony. With the weight of expectations and new outlets for their creativity, you might expect their new album Slow Focus to feel a little phoned-in. Not in the slightest.

The very name Fuck Buttons raises questions. Is it an attack on the stereotype that electronic music consists solely of pressing play on a laptop? Is it a profane rebellion against buttons themselves or is it a button that causes… Yeah, never mind. These questions go out of your mind anyway when you hear the first song, Brainfreeze.

It’s urgent; it goes from inviting to foreboding to neurotic with every instrument that kicks in, and you dearly want to follow it down the rabbit hole to see where it might lead. The band was originally formed to provide a soundtrack for Hung’s film, and this song could accompany the party at the end of the world. And not Simon Peg’s quaint, English world’s end either; a crazy, slightly dangerous, substance fuelled orgy.

For something without words, Fuck Buttons communicate a hell of a lot. Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power are the Shakespeares of electronic music, writing Iambic pentameter with drums and synths. The track titles are never mentioned, but each one has resonance. Stalker is ominous and close, building in pressure and uncertainty. The Red Wing is playful and wide-eyed with wonder.

 

Just as the name promises, everything does indeed come into focus slowly. Fillers become an essential part of the structure; seemingly random pieces slot into place. It’s telling that all the songs follow on from each other as this album has clearly been designed to be heard in one go. There are no hit singles; it’s everything or nothing. You have to hear it in one go to appreciate the ornate construction. The comparison that comes to mind most is the current cultural behemoth of Game of Thrones. Each song, just like a book or episode in the series, may feel like a marathon, but they are so intricately layered that you can keep it on replay and discover new things to appreciate about it.

Slow Focus is the first of their records to chart in the Top 40 – an achievement that’s impressive not just because it would be so alienating to a casual listener but because they can’t have their name read out on radio. Nevertheless, their music deserves to be brought to a wider audience. Parts of it bring to mind a braver, weirder version of MGMT. They are often described as eclectic, which is a polite way of saying no one else is doing anything like them.

This album is an unabashed victory for Fuck Buttons. Every track screams how essential it is, not just in the album but in your life. Britain could be doing far worse than making them ambassadors for its music.

Jamie Waller

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