Slow Focus

Album Review of Slow Focus by Fuck Buttons.

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Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons

Slow Focus by Fuck Buttons

Release Date: Jul 23, 2013
Record label: ATP Recordings
Genre(s): Experimental, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Post-Rock

75 Music Critic Score
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Slow Focus - Very Good, Based on 28 Critics

PopMatters - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

One of the most cogent exegeses of Bristol’s Fuck Buttons comes courtesy of Youtube user Benalski241. His is the top-voted comment attached to an unofficial upload of “Sweet Love for Planet Earth”, the opening track of the duo’s debut, Street Horssing. Verbatim, he writes: The bros-before-hos rebel-yell aside, the context of coitus fits Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power’s indie noise epics unexpectedly well.

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Exclaim - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

When Fuck Buttons released their sophomore LP, 2009's Tarot Sport, the duo were lauded for their seamless foray from steely noise cultists to rubbery dance congregators. On their third release, Slow Focus, the UK producers have managed to once again evolve without losing their artistic genome. Drawing heavily from hip-hop and house, Slow Focus transports 52 minutes of sustainable synth through valleys of watery beats and crunchy rhythms.

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musicOMH.com - 90
Based on rating 4.5
90

How to follow up a beloved, unmistakably brilliant record like Tarot Sport? That synthy masterpiece, one with Olympics-soundtracking highlights like Surf Solar, established London’s Fuck Buttons as an electronic force with which to be reckoned and left listeners wondering where they might go next. What they’ve now unleashed upon the world is, in its way, comparatively restrained, darker, appropriately-named affair called Slow Focus, an album of much exciting musical complexity that compares with the blissful, awe-inspiring heights of Tarot Sport. Slow Focus begins with the militaristic, brooding, punishing Brainfreeze, almost the electronic equivalent of a Metz opening, with its pounding drums introducing you to an ominous world.

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Beats Per Minute (formerly One Thirty BPM) - 88
Based on rating 88%%
88

Fuck ButtonsSlow Focus[ATP Recordings; 2013]By Josh Becker; August 9, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTarot Sport was, for all intents and purposes, a Fuck Buttons techno record. Largely eschewing the squalling guitars, filtered screamo vocals, and grainy textures of noise that gave Street Horrrsing its bite, it deftly allowed the Bristol duo to avoid the sophomore slump by going out of its way to be as different as possible from its predecessor. Sure, the overarching post-post-rock structures remained, as did their penchant for melodic arrangements that were at once uplifting and vaguely sinister.

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Pitchfork - 87
Based on rating 8.7/10
87

Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung, the duo behind Fuck Buttons, are restless, inveterate equipment scavengers: They've worked on computer software, on Casio keyboards, on children's toys, on old karaoke machines. In interviews, they come off as eager, curious, and transparent about their process and their gear, but their music is about as approachable as an Egyptian tomb. On Slow Focus, their first album in four years, Fuck Buttons remain devoted to forbidding, elemental sensations, and their slow-moving pieces inspire the kinds of big feelings-- exhilaration, majesty, awe-- that double as reminders of our smallness.

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Slant Magazine - 80
Based on rating 4.0/5
80

There are lots of different ideas of what a successful album should do, but typically they all boil down to some notion of harmony: a compendium of tracks, assembled so as to suggest theme or additional meaning by their arrangement, grouped together to form a product that's more than the sum of its parts. This has different applications depending on genre, yet even in the particularly outré noise world, where standards for aesthetic consistency are often especially lax, some level of coherence is still expected. There are exceptions to prove every rule, however, and for sonic explorers like Fuck Buttons, who originally moved from more-traditional noise strictures on their 2008 debut, Street Horrrsing, to something grander and more oblique on 2009's Tarot Sport, a sense of inter-song accord doesn't even enter into the equation.

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Resident Advisor - 80
Based on rating 4.0/5
80

"Fuck Buttons, stars of the Olympics opening ceremony. " Until a year ago it would have been hard to think of a less likely sentence, but when "Surf Solar," "Olympians" and "Sundowner" (by Benjamin Power's Blanck Mass side-project) rang out during Danny Boyle's set-piece in London last July, it felt apt: epic, hopeful, uncompromising music for an event that, against all the odds, merited the same description. "Surf Solar" and "Olympians," from 2009's Andrew Weatherall-produced Tarot Sport album, were major markers of Fuck Buttons fully finding the sound we now associate them with: monolithic sheets of noise shot through with otherworldly melodies.

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No Ripcord - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

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.

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AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

After working with Mogwai's John Cummings on Street Horrrsing and Andrew Weatherall on Tarot Sport, Fuck Buttons' John Power and Andrew Hung chose to produce Slow Focus themselves. While traces of those other artists' influences linger here -- most notably on the gorgeous album closer "Hidden XS," which recalls Mogwai in its heartbreaking melody and exquisite tension -- Hung and Power spend most of their third album proving how much they've come into their own. The duo manages to pack more beauty, menace, and melancholy into fewer songs, and the contrast between the implosive moments and soaring ones is sharper than ever.

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Drowned In Sound - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Of the 900 million or so people who watched last year’s Olympics opening ceremony, I’d say a generous estimate would be that 899,900,000 of them were unaware that two songs by Fuck Buttons were snuck into Danny Boyle’s carnival of liberal-leaning patriotism. It should have been the ultimate incongruous spectacle, a family-friendly global pan-global pageant soundtracked by a hipster 'noise' duo with a ribald name. In fact, the only people weirded out by the brace of songs off 2009’s Tarot Sport were members of Fuck Buttons’ comparatively modest fanbase, who would have scarcely been less confused if they had themselves been invited to provide a soundtrack to the ceremony.

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New Musical Express (NME) - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

There have been noise acts in the past who have achieved some degree of commercial success, and there will be plenty more in the future. But the career arc of Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power, in their musical guise as Fuck Buttons, is one of the more unlikely examples. Forming in Bristol in 2004, their early and messy experiments as goofy, sub-Black Dice tone-tweakers were heard by few.

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The Guardian - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

Less successful are their attempts to dial down the visceral intensity a touch. You can't blame them for trying something different, but the faintly proggy synth chatter and slippery rhythms of Prince's Prize feel too knotty and contorted to impact. Year of the Dog isn't a bad track in itself, but its beatless arpeggios feel weirdly familiar: a lot of electronic producers in recent years have tried making music under the influence of Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack and Tangerine Dream's Love on a Real Train.

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Consequence of Sound - 72
Based on rating B
72

The indie-verse was in a collective state of shock just after the wild music of Fuck Buttons was first played at the opening ceremonies of last summer’s Olympics. Though one of the band’s songs in rotation was called “Olympians”, it seemed there was something off about these guys winding up on the same playlist as English immortals like the Stones and Queen, as millions, to whatever degree of understanding, listened along. For all their cosmically rupturesome passages, Fuck Buttons are both descendants of our most intelligent dance music and purveyors of something willfully over-the-top.

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Paste Magazine - 71
Based on rating 7.1/10
71

Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung once made us ask how soft a noise band could get and still be noise; now we wonder how danceable they can get and still be ambient, except it’s not danceability per se. It’s how kinetic they can make sheer lumps of noise. Slow Focus has all the rousing fanfare, build-and-release, PLUR values of standard raves, except the tracks are five minutes longer and the amount of human touch is in question.

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Under The Radar - 65
Based on rating 6.5/10
65

They may not have medalled, but for Fuck Buttons, the 2012 Olympic Games in London were a career high. Despite their less-than-radio-friendly moniker, the duo from Bristol, England were catapulted onto the international stage via Danny Boyle's masterful opening ceremony, which revisited the U.K.'s cultural highs and lows in front of an audience of billions. .

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Rolling Stone - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

Fuck Buttons’ third album – a synthesis of noise, hip-hop, drone and shoegaze – is basically avant-garde weightlifting music, forgoing heart and brains in hopes that brute force alone will elevate it to heaven. Occasionally, it does. Highlights “The Red Wing” and “Sentients” finish big but start with an underdog’s clumsiness, rising out of the mist like cartoon colossi (a callback to 2009’s funnier, airier Tarot Sport).

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NOW Magazine - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

When Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power started working together in 2004 to create a soundtrack to one of Hung's art school films, they probably didn't expect their noisy electronic experiments would one day be used in the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Perhaps they've been influenced by the bombast and grandeur of that unexpected reframing of their music, since Slow Focus sounds more muscular and stadium-ready than anything they've done before. The duo seem much more in control of their machines and rewired toys, but their sound still has a murky homemade quality that gives everything a warm retro haze of 70s electronic music rather than the crystalline sheen of contemporary laptop pop.

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Record Collector - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

You could be forgiven for thinking someone was smiling on Fuck Buttons from up above last year. Not only were two of this uncompromising – and relatively obscure – duo’s tracks used in the Olympic opening ceremony, but a track by spinoff group Blanck Mass was also interpreted when the Union Flag was hoisted at the event. Thankfully, such huge exposure hasn’t made Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power fame-hungry.

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The Observer (UK) - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

One of the more unexpected delights of last year's Olympics was hearing this duo's heady music being blasted out during the opening ceremony. Slow Focus finds the Bristolian noiseniks suitably emboldened. Their third album is denser, more heavyweight and grandiose than their previous offerings, Tarot Sport (2009) and Street Horrrsing (2008). Seven tracks reverberate with malevolence, often – as on Brainfreeze and The Red Wing – recalling the nimble dread of Boards of Canada, but with a more generous low end.

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Tiny Mix Tapes - 40
Based on rating 2/5
40

As a lover and critic of music (in that order), my immediate response to a new piece is typically immersive, visceral, emotional, and unmediated by outside sources — the experience involves only myself and the music; the only intertexts are those transparently included by the artists and those implanted by my past and present personal experience — and from there I expand the music’s context and begin developing a more intellectual, encompassing, and critical understanding. It is strange, then, that my experience with Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung’s third album as Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus, an LP that will certainly be described as “immediate,” “visceral,” and “immersive,” leapfrogged my usual first response to new music, and I began my experience at a distance that was mediated by a single text: Marshall McLuhan’s seminal essay, “The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis,” informed my every reaction to the point that, for me, Slow Focus does not exist outside of the context of “The Gadget Lover. ” Ideally, I would copy and paste the entire essay here, leave you to connect the dots, and take the week off — being unmoved by the album in any personal way, the motivation to comment on this connection is decidedly lacking — but if sterility is part of my critique, then I suppose lines are as sterile as dots and drawing them should contribute to my criticism.

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Pretty Much Amazing
Their review was extremely favourable

opinion byDREW MALMUTH With the release of Slow Focus, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have once again demonstrated that the least interesting aspect of their group is the fact that it is called Fuck Buttons. One would think that a band name that combines “fuck” and “buttons” would overshadow the career of whatever drug-addled rave fanatic concocted that band title. But these two friendly gentleman from Bristol happened to choose a ridiculous name, because they never assumed they'd have to explain it, and go on to make some of the more exciting, fiercely original electronic music of the last five years.

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Delusions of Adequacy
Their review was very positive

Throughout their short career Fuck Buttons duo Andrew Hung and Ben Power has carefully crafted rousing electronic music that is always forcefully moving. Being careful while also being forceful sounds like an oxymoron waiting to happen but for the noisy electronic music that Fuck Buttons generate, it’s a match made in heaven. Their first album, Street Horrrsing, sent out the signal that this was a duo going places (as one young writer first noted), and their swift follow-up, Tarot Sport, will be regarded as one of the finest electronic albums of the last decade.

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The Quietus
Their review was very positive

Among the litany of horrible music journalism clichés that ought to be stricken from any album review is the phrase “the album so-and-so was born to make”. It’s not only lazy writing, but it has some pretty dodgy metaphysical baggage, since it implies that every artist or band has a telos towards which they will naturally, almost effortlessly, work. Of course, this isn’t the case: artists make albums through consciously directed hard work, and sometimes their gambles turn out to be failures - David Bowie was not only born to make Low, but also to make albums as forgettable as Never Let Me Down.

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Alternative Press
Their review was very positive

The third album seems like the appropriate one to make the grandiose statement; the fence swinging effort that could truly cement a band's place in the temple of sound. For Fuck Buttons, that musical pronouncement couldn't be more perfectly timed. The Bristol, U.K.-based duo found their second album Tarot Sport slathered with critical praise and surprising commercial success.

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Fact Magazine (UK)
Their review was positive

Speaking recently of their working methods, Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power describe their work as not devoid of language, but work that reconsiders language’s focus: “There is a language to music but it’s not a verbal one, so maybe it has been easier for us to communicate via that language rather than actually talking. ” The enduring quality of Fuck Buttons work lies in their finely tuned awareness of one another, which is what makes their third album Slow Focus a towering achievement. Having previously collaborated with John Cummings of Mogwai on Street Horrrsing and Andrew Weatherall on Tarot Sport, Hung and Power took on the engineering and production roles for the first time on Slow Focus, a move which has solidified their relationship and developed their sound into its most macabre state to date.

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CMJ
Their review was positive

Fuck Buttons never surrender. Despite working with abrasive sounds that would make most people cower and hide, the group melds those gnarled textures into hulking monuments of noise that empower and inspire. Their best songs, like the menacing “Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise” or the Olympic-worthy “Surf Solar,” move with the unnerving patience and the killer instinct of monolithic spacecrafts casting a shadows over a city.

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DIY Magazine
Their review was positive

Music as art. You remember that, right? Before it was all just a download-what-you-want free for all and everything lost any sense of permanence or meaning? Well with their third album, ‘Slow Focus’, Fuck Buttons have produced a truly, genuinely beautiful piece of art. At times bleak and nigh on disturbing yet always thick with complexity, it’s a record which takes many, many listens to get to grips with and rewards repeat listens with almost unbelievable depth.Kicking off with the 8 minutes of swirling, mechanical brilliance that is ‘Brainfreeze’ this is an LP which ebbs and flows and oozes with delicious ease and grand intent.

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The Line of Best Fit
Their review was only somewhat favourable

Although second album Tarot Sport was now released three years ago, it certainly doesn’t seem like Fuck Buttons have been out of our lives between then and now. The remarkable, wonderful appearance of two of their tracks (‘Surf Solar’ and ‘Olympians’) at the terrific London Olympics opening ceremony last year (THANK YOU Uncle Danny Boyle) presumably brought their powerful and euphoric sounds to a much wider audience than they’ll previously have experienced, and was, for those “in the know” possibly the alt.icing on the surprisingly delicious cake that was last summer. This return, then, was obviously always going to be accompanied by heightened expectations.

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