[6 April 2008]
Beyond the name choice, much had been written about this Bristol, UK duo even before there was a full-length album on the loose. Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power had been quietly building support at under-the-radar British festivals and All Tomorrows Parties, whose label now brings us Street Horrrsing. Aside from the overwhelmingly positive blog-talk surrounding the band after their 7” release last year containing the single “Bright Tomorrow” (which also appears here on their full-length), the key things about the group on paper might make listeners shy away: a name that can’t be said on public radio, the guys’ story of the band being born from their need for an outlet for their nihilistic-noise tendencies, the dark reputations associated with noise music and, even worse, the confused looks that are generally the reaction to anything called “experimental”.
As it stands, the Fuck Buttons recipe for sound is one that seems to test the limits of throwing the most twisted ideas and sounds along with the most melodic and beautiful into one big brewing pot—euphoric chimes and pounding tribal rhythms with violent screams and spooky distortions, that sort of thing. While the twosome have been exploring the addition of “prettiness” into their typically darker worlds of drone and noise for this LP, the result, as expected, is still often downright creepy. There may only be a few words actually included in the album, but the effect of ambiance never suffers for it. And while a challenging listen to be sure, one minute into the first track of Street Horrrsing and you’ll understand why so many people have used the word “hypnotic” to describe these songs.
With six songs on the album and only one shy of hitting the seven-minute mark, Fuck Buttons seem adept at utilizing their technique of spontaneity in songwriting. Though most of their songwriting process comes out of endless jam sessions, any preference towards improvisation ends there as the duo admits each element of their music’s phrasing is carefully crafted and thought about in detail. That thoughtfulness is obvious on their debut album, a twisted and unexpected narrative that mixes the typically darker elements of noise with melody and rhythms that could only be the result of such attentive plotting.
The record opens with “Sweet Love for Planet Earth”, a captivating and plainly pretty track leading listeners down a nine-minute road that starts with cascading tones and a tinkling piano, slowly morphs into a mix of devilish shrieks and eerie drones, and ends by slapping us back into an entirely different place with the tribal drum circles that envelop us in the intro to “Ribs Out”. These sort of pulsing drums reappear throughout the album, an example of the hypnotic loops of distraction used. Just as a song is kindly carrying your thoughts away to something soft and pretty, it’s simultaneously setting you up to be pummeled by the pulse of post-apocalyptic chaos. This sort of unexpected back-and-forth weaves through the entire record, and it can be especially interesting because there isn’t a spare second to process where a single track is taking us: just as you’re trying to figure out where one song has taken you, you’re being pushed into some place new until you’re brought finally to the album’s closer, “Colours Move”, a clever mix of the elements of all the tracks preceding it. Street Horrrsing will absolutely have listeners feeling unsure of their footing, both during and after their listen, and that’s really just an exciting (and scary) place to be.
Fuck Buttons have put together an entirely unpredictable journey of sound here, and it masterfully lends itself to the group’s intentions of mixing light and dark. No doubt, the duo’s time spent within the noise and experimental genres have made them comfortable in such borderless environments, and leads to their confidence to experiment further and communicate so vividly within it here. Street Horrrsing will not be one for everyone, but it may actually be the impetus that takes the focus solely off the band’s name.