Take it to the limit

The minimal maximalism of Fuck Buttons
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  November 18, 2009

BLASTRONAUTS With Tarot Sport, Andy Hung and Ben Power have taken their roaring, scree-laden spacecraft and charted a course for the heart of the sun.

When asked to describe their own music, most bands get it horribly wrong. UK electro-noisesters Fuck Buttons, however, are not most bands. Their MySpace tagline gets more done in four words than I will accomplish in 600 or so, not-so-neatly encapsulating everything you need to know about their largely wordless music: “Sounds like: the universe.”

I might add “expanding” to “universe” there. With the release of their new Tarot Sport (ATP), Bristol FBers Andy Hung and Ben Power have taken their roaring, scree-laden spacecraft and charted a course for the heart of the sun, creating what is perhaps the most epic album of 2009.

And arguably the most dance-tastic as well, since it finds Hung and Power trading in the inarticulate distorto-howls that splattered all over their debut, 2007’s Street Horrrsing, for a far more shimmering and percussive brand of drone rock. And though I did just call it “dance-tastic,” don’t go cracking those glowsticks just yet: Tarot Sport’s surges and rhythms make clear the duo’s penchant for letting the music take over and consume all — as any great dance music does. It’s just lacking all the signifiers that would allow the songs to be seen as a mere utility for shaking it. On the powerful “Olympians” (which kicks in with an organ-heavy sturm that sounds like the climax of the introduction to Also sprach Zarathustra seizing into infinity) and “Flight of the Feathered Serpent” (with its galloping polyrhythms like a Vangelis theme having an anxiety attack), Fuck Buttons are more interested in building up than breaking down.

“We wouldn’t describe this as a dance record,” contends Power when I broach the topic. “The music that we make is kind of at the mercy of the equipment that we use. We’re constantly accumulating new gear, new sound processors, which kind of resulted in more rhythm-based elements on this record — but we definitely aren’t pushing any kind of agenda, nor did we try to push it in a more dancy direction. We think of it as more cinematic.”

It could be cinematic, but maybe it’s just “bigger.” For Tarot Sport, they recruited Andy Weatherall (the legendary UK producer responsible for, among other things, the knob twiddling on Primal Scream’s 1991 techno-tinged classic Screamadelica), ditched the screamo vocals, and let things stretch out. “We just literally jammed out on these processors we had until we’d stumble across a sound that we liked, or some kind of manipulation that we hadn’t done before, and then we’d use that to start constructing this dense thing into a song.”

This process of deconstruction and reconstruction has resulted in a batch of songs that, underneath all the noise, disclose a revelatory beauty — and pack a surprising emotional wallop.

“We’re not particularly sad people,” says Power, “but we are interested in emotional projection within our music.” It’s easy to take beats and synths for granted, and even easier to doubt the emotional content of noise, but Fuck Buttons use minimalist tools to create music even larger than rock’s grandest gestures — and the effect can be overwhelming. And you wouldn’t know from listening to it, but part of its power comes from the fact that they’re holding back.

“It’s quite easy to just overdo it,” Power acknowledges. “We have so many signal processors that we could so easily overload everything, but we’re very interested in minimal music as well. We just want the songs to emerge thick and full and perfect — wherever that takes us.”

FUCK BUTTONS + GROWING | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | November 25 at 9 pm | 18+ | $12 | www.greatscottboston.com

Related: Me time, Hot Box experiment on themselves, Slideshow: Six Finger Satellite at Great Scott, More more >
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