Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus album cover

Tarot Sport is the name of Fuck Buttons’ last album. Released in 2009, it was near destructive in its arrival. It was brilliant, it was beautiful, and for many it was un-toppable. It was filled with electronic ‘techno’ with melodies that you’d find yourself humming.

The wait between that and this has been far too long. It has been agonising, but now the wait is over.

Slow Focus is the name of the new album. Its sound, immediately, is aggressive. Tarot Sport was light, energetic and led by its synth. Slow Focus, however, is the complete opposite. For the most part it is slower, more ponderous and heavier. Percussion led and thoughtful, but with less momentum – nothing immediately leaps out and embeds itself in your head. The first time you hear Tarot Sport, it’s hard to discern the individual tracks as it sounds like a continuous mix. Slow Focus is the exact contrary, with each track a clearly different approach to the same darkly apocalyptic theme.

The link between tracks is still there – but is much more subtle. Much more thematically interesting, in fact. The album starts with deep, heavy-percussion driven licks, such as ‘BrainfreezeIt ends, with ‘Stalker’ and ‘Hidden XS’, that both house a heavier emphasis on the melody. Each individual track mirrors this slow change, most noticeably ‘The Red Wing’ and ‘SentientsIn true Fuck Buttons style, the progression is so slowly done, so subtly realised, that it’s often impossible to notice whilst it’s happening. Only after and in hindsight will you realise anything has changed.

The continuing thread, then, is rhythm. At first it’s percussive, then oddly melodic. Listen to the stand out beauty of ‘Stalkers’. Although the term is becoming somewhat cliché, the only description that fits is “towering synths”. Seriously. Listen right through towards the end and that description will seem the most ideal.

Fuck Buttons promo pic

DARK & AGGRESSIVE: Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power
Photo (c) Press

For many – with Tarot Sport still shaping their expectation – on first listen, the album will only really come together in the final quarter. The darker, more hostile, drum-infused sound will make many wistfully reminisce for Tarot Sport’s catchy melodies.  However, as you live with this album, you’ll realise you have it wrong. Fuck Buttons haven’t gotten rid of their melodies in favour of percussion. They’ve just integrated stronger percussion into their melodies. Listen carefully to ‘Sentients’ and it’ll become clear. Repeated listens bring it out further and further, bringing the two – percussion and melody – beautifully together.

The album is not the perfect, energetic powerhouse that Tarot Sport was. But, after 4 years, it’s still worth the wait. Fuck Buttons are still a powerful example of what the genre can be.

4 stars ★★★