F-ck Buttons: Purpose Through Rhythm

Explaining 'Slow Focus'...

Fuck Buttons’ new, third LP, ‘Slow Focus’, is out now on ATP Recordings. The recipient of an impressive 8/10 review on these very pages, it’s one of 2013-so-far’s more demanding long-players: in so much as it tests you, certainly, but then doesn’t give up its vice-like hold on the attentions, once they’re locked in.

A full interview with the London-based pair – Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power – features in the next issue of Clash magazine, available in newsagents and online from the start of August. (Back issues and the like can be checked out here, by the way.) Here, we’ve snipped an extract from said piece, to give you a flavour of what to expect from ‘Slow Focus’ if you’re yet to dive into its unearthly delights.

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Fuck Buttons, ‘The Red Wing’ (edit), from ‘Slow Focus’

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A refined clangour: if you’re looking for a succinct description of Fuck Buttons’ new album, ‘Slow Focus’, that’ll serve just fine. The ATP Recordings-released seven-tracker, the London-based act’s third long-player, finds the pair of Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung operating at a new level of musicianship, matching evident melodic strengths with an established brand of experimental electronic tectonics.

Not that both members agree on the employment of the term ‘musician’ when it comes to qualifying their roles. “I don’t think I’m a musician,” muses Hung. He gestures to his bandmate. “I think you’re someone who plays music, a lot better than I do.”

“Yeah, you’ve always had a problem with being called a musician,” says Power. “But I don’t think that playing music a certain way is what warrants a good musician. Perhaps in more conventional terms. We can both compose tracks, so…”

The notion that Fuck Buttons’ music confirms to any sense of the conventional, however you attempt to pigeonhole it using tested patterns, is bewildering indeed. This is brave and bold craft, nuanced material that prods and pokes at the listener until it can’t be ignored. It doesn’t always begin with a bang, but frequently ends with a crash – of studied strength articulated through climactic cacophony, or simply, as Hung puts it, “into a wall”.

The way that these new tracks – restless, twitching things that flit from a distinctive, almost hip-hop-honed swagger on ‘The Red Wing’ to the pulsating, prickly and menacing ‘Stalker’ – have come together is via a process far removed from typical electronica. Power and Hung set themselves up, in their own studio, as they would for a live show. And then they jammed. Seriously. Their words, not Clash’s.

“When we’re jamming, it’s fun to see all of these new textural elements appearing,” says Power. “One of us might come up with something that challenges the other; and then it’s interesting to see the reaction.”

What underpins much of the new material is, as it was on previous LPs ‘Street Horrrsing’ (2008) and ‘Tarot Sport’ (2009), a clear, driving rhythmic structure that compels feet to spark into movement whether resting beneath a desk or stepping across the dancefloor of a particularly daring club. Fuck Buttons’ live sets have always seen audiences in motion, although it’s a stretch to cite the duo as a dance outfit, strictly.

“Rhythm is definitely something we’re always considering, when playing with the textural aspects of material,” says Power. “For a lot of noise musicians, that might not be such a significant thing. But for us, it’s something of real interest.”

The twisting rhythms that snake through ‘Slow Focus’ lend the album a solid coherency. This is not a set of tracks ordered in an arbitrary fashion, but a record in the sense that to be best experienced it has to run from its first seconds – clattering drums and elephantine hums that seem to emanate from a lost tribe on the other side of an alien jungle – to its final few, when the transcendental drones of ‘Hidden XS’ evaporate into a sparkling mist.

“We don’t let our music meander,” states Hung. “And I think we achieve that by constantly egging each other on, to drive the music on. Together, we bring more purpose to our music.”

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‘Slow Focus’ is out now. Find Fuck Buttons on the ATP website here

Want more? Check out this archive interview with the Buttons pair.

Individual portraits: Chris Rhodes

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