A noise band with tunes, working like a dream.
Louis Pattison 2009
Street Horrrsing, the debut LP from Bristol-born duo Fuck Buttons, saw Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung mint an ingenious formula. The set-up they used – a hotchpotch of keyboard, laptop, children’s toys, floor tom, and plenty of effects pedals – more or less resembled the kit used by modern experimental/noise bands such as early Animal Collective or Black Dice.
But whereas many young bands would use such an assembly as a springboard for sonic experimentation, the pair sounded much like they’d already hit on their signature sound – and while this sound was often abrasive, it felt rather more concerned with blissful washes and ecstatic peaks than any more lumpen feats of eardrum battery.
Following Street Horrrsing, Power and Hung toured for 18 months. The result is Tarot Sport – a record that, while not a radical change of style from its predecessor, has certainly picked up some lessons from the road. We commence with Surf Solar, a 10-minute epic that commences in a Milky Way of glimmering synthesiser but soon focuses into a gigantic psychedelic stomp chilled by cold washes, strafed with electronic chatter and tethered down with a heavy four-to-the-floor beat – think Sasha’s 90s trance epic Xpander reworked with some wicked-sounding pedals and levels well in the red.
It’s not the only cut from Tarot Sport to show a new resolve in moving the crowd. The Lisbon Maru, a plane of shuddering delay-soaked synthesiser that’s slowly propelled skyward on a martial drum salute, and the climactic Flight of the Feathered Serpent are master classes in the art of gentle builds and dancefloor traction.
Yet actually, the longer you linger on songs like Olympians and Space Mountain, the more realise this band’s greatest skill is in creating earworms, melodies that sneak into your head and stay put. Just like sometime tourmates Mogwai, Power and Hung have a way with a misty, nostalgic tune that might not take hold immediately, but slowly drip-drips into your consciousness.
A noise band with tunes might sound like a contradiction in terms, but Fuck Buttons have carved out a sound that owes more to personal inspiration that tradition, and here it works like a dream.