Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
Tim Miller 12/10/2009
As another momentous decade in music draws ever-swiftly to its close, the latter part of it has seen the industry, if not saturated, then certainly permeated by a number of albums that not only set out to entertain but also challenge. That Fuck Buttons' debut was a challenge is without question; it took repeat listens, patience and unwavering tolerance to give Street Horrrsing's 50 minutes the chance to prove itself as a dense, textured gem. It was quite unlike any other debut of 2008, but the twosome's intent on pushing their comfort zone - never mind their audience's - still further sees the follow up, Tarot Sport, arrive just 18 months later.
Much like its predecessor, it gets off to a brilliant start, with the album version of recent single Surf Solar. In its full glory - ten and a half minutes - it expands from 90 seconds of rippling abyss into an insistent, pounding, anti-floorfiller. Anti, because its splintered, indecipherable vocal and low end white noise bass foundation would ordinarily be an instant turn off for all but the most hardened revellers. But on top of a thudding bass drum, in the hands of Messrs Hung and Power Surf Solar is instantly, hypnotically moving, and unrelenting in its urgency. Slowly, layers are added, shrill squealing melodic layers, as the song climbs towards its mountainous peak, still fresh, still intense. It's a tsunami of an opening song, leaving very little in its wake.
That's only metaphorically speaking of course, for what in reality is in its wake is a further six tracks. After the swooping electro squelches that garnish Rough Steez's interlocking rhythms, slowburning smog follows on The Lisbon Maru. The real Lisbon Maru was a ship containing hundreds of British prisoners of war, sunk mistakenly by Allied forces due its incorrect markings. Fittingly, this track sees Fuck Buttons at a more sedate pace, another sprawling arrangement revisiting their debut's sound of underlying synth fuzz tracking the movements of the drum patterns. With more squalling layers added as the track unfolds, the building drums take on a military marching feel. It's approaching solemn, by the Buttons' standards, though only in their own unique, engrossing manner. As the drums fade, enter centrepiece Olympians; nearing 11 minutes in length again, it's like some sort of Chariots of Fire reinvention, the smooth keyboard chords punctuated by a rhythm that seems desperate to break into a sprint. Eventually, the climax can wait no longer and the trademark distortion washes euphorically over everything, adrenalin pouring from the speakers and the pores. The winner is everyone.
Fuck Buttons bring Tarot Sport to a close with arguably their most immediate offering yet, Flight of the Feathered Serpent, but not before the industrial metropolis of Phantom Limb sees them indulge in five minutes of anti-ambience, then chop up chiming synths in the aptly named crystal-glazed expanse Space Mountain. ...Feathered Serpent, however, sees the boys throw down an irresistible, galloping rhythm and apply copious fuzz, as is their wont, unleashing a hissing, elongated melody that pierces the Fuck Buttons frequency and hauls the frenzied atmosphere towards its rightful station: as a gargantuan beast of a track. As the feathered serpent takes flight for a final time, it's nothing short of breathless, much like the album's opening piece, and it's a fitting way to bookend Tarot Sport.
Fuck Buttons stormed to prominence last year with Street Horrrsing, a limits-ignoring chaos of harsh, anxious states. Now they've expanded, reimagining their signature sound and with it, carving out monolithic statements. It's certainly another late '00s album: challenging, again, but unquestionably enjoyable too. Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung are a duo whose unflinching love of noise and dedication to boundary-pushing might mean they're 'anti' much of what was established earlier in the decade, but suddenly now theirs is a sound perfectly attuned to our times, that encapsulates the world turmoil, the future's uncertainty - and its new possibility. With this duo at the helm, that future seems unknowably, infinitely exciting.
Released 12th October 2009