Music Reviews
Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons Slow Focus

(ATP Recordings) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Our service as music writers is to explain in detail just what it is that makes an album so captivating or special (or terrible from time to time), and more often than not, this job is easier said than done. But occasionally, we somehow strike it lucky when a single moment on an album, whether it’s a lyric, a perfectly timed power chord, or even a mistake, sums up everything perfectly. On Slow Focus, the latest LP from crescendo-obsessed electronic duo Fuck Buttons, such a moment appears about halfway through opening track Brainfreeze. It starts in typical Fuck Buttons fashion – static-frayed synths climbing to infinity against a propulsive beat – but just when you’re getting cozy and enjoying the ride, a grotesque, downturned synth line socks you in the stomach, like watching a distorted VHS tape dissolve the sound and images on screen. It’s a small change, but it represents something fairly uncommon in Fuck Button’s music: A bump in the road.

Not all tracks unfold the same way Brainfreeze does, but it’s more of a strong indication that, this time around, Fuck Buttons aren’t going to do things the same old way. Previous to this album, the duo’s music was pretty much all about the trek upwards, whether it was through Street Horrrsings’s incinerating noise or Tarot Sport’s sublime textures. Their lengthy, beat-heavy tracks would slowly and progressively integrate various synth textures, but it was always about the mighty, euphoric wall of sound that would result from all of these textures converging into one blistering, unified roar. As detailed as it all was, the best way to approach these albums was not to pick it apart by each sonic groove, but to allow yourself to be totally swallowed whole by the oncoming barrage.

But as opening track Brainfreeze shows, which is suddenly derailed halfway through and forced on a different course than planned,Slow Focus provides for more to do than just sitting back and enjoying the ride. The build-ups are still as gargantuan and all-encompassing as they were before, but Slow Focus gives listeners much more of a reason to pay close attention to the big riffs and subtle details that pave the way for the journey rather than just setting sights for the climax at the end. Single The Red Wing, for instance, builds into serene splendor, but it’s the songs confrontational, hip-hop inspired hook and motor-engine synths that make the track stand out, and it’s main hook is just as effective in its scaled-down single edit as it does stretched out to seven minutes. And unlike any other Fuck Buttons album, many of the shorter-length tracks (or in this case, tracks under 8 minutes) stand out pretty well on their own. Prince’s Prize, for instance, doesn’t build with the same force as other Fuck Buttons tracks, but its dizzying melody and energetic groove make it a significantly infectious piece of music regardless, and Sentients grabs the listener with grotesque robot groans and stomping drum beats.

Of course, old habits tend to die hard, and while much of Slow Focus digs out new territory, the album closes with two of its longest and most familiar sounding tracks. But Fuck Buttons are still undoubtedly masters of this sound that they perfected through three impressive releases, and though Stalker and Hidden X’s are safe in the realm of Fuck Buttons, they’re still incredibly dazzling in their own right. Hidden X’s, in particular, makes for one dazzling closing track; pulling together all of the spectacle, emotions, and energy the duo could possibly muster to make one hell of an epic laser light show.

Spectacle has always been the single most important factor of what makes Fuck Button’s music work so well in the first place. Sure, you can spend plenty of time dissecting the duo’s sublime, dense pieces, and their latest album gives listeners even more incentive to do so than before, but in the end, it really comes down to the sense of awe in the duo’s tracks, from segue tracks to 10minte epics, that makes their music so unique and worth talking about. But if we could compare each of Fuck Button’s works some sort of dazzling spectacle, whether it be a firework display, a meteor shower, falling in love, or something of the like, than Slow Focus makes a strong case for being their most brilliant event yet.