Fuck Buttons, Zun Zun Equi
Simon Jay Catling 20/09/2009
To loosely paraphrase a quote oft used in the early 90's by the NME , when concerning Oasis (well we are in Manchester tonight after all), "if Fuck Buttons didn't already exist, it's unlikely anyone would think to invent them". You wouldn't associate a two-piece duo dealing in rainbow-kissed, toy instrument-created, drone music, with a runner-up spot in The Guardian's Album of 2008 awards; let alone think them bearers of plaudits from hip-Dads' favourite Uncut Magazine. Yet Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have been the recipients of a quite astonishing amount of widespread good will, when put in to context with their brazenly reticent ambient brainstorms. That's what our generation's delightful gift to music culture- the blogosphere- provides for groups like Fuck Buttons though; an unexpected push into the wider conscious on the wave of a flurry of Blog good will (Blogwill?). The zeitgeist has been wrested from the hands of the professional hacks; it's the bloggers who are the new tastemakers now.
Or that's how it would seem in black and white. In reality, as with most things, it's a little more complicated than that, and tonight's crowd is certainly an attest to this. As many Guardian/Uncut readers- who give the distinct the impression that they're here just because they feel they ought to be- are in attendance as there are scenesters that'd turn up to anything at the Deaf Institute if it meant that, well, they could tell people they were watching "*insert act name* at the Deaf Institute last night". As such, genuine fans of the group seem to be in the minority; the wonderfully decorated Victorian ballroom-cum-venue not so much bristling with anticipation, more furrowed with investigation. Unfortunate really, because the Bristol duo's new soundscapes are meant for moving to. No really.
Here's the crux of that first paragraph's ill-structured ranting. Street Horrrsing ultimately deserved its plaudits; it was a masterpiece in taking the bluntly abstruse world of drone, and bleeding into it a sense of light and beauty. It took me, and I suspect many others, a bloody good few listens to "get" that though; "a bloody good few listens" that the average man on the street doesn't really have time for. Thus explains a great surprise at Fuck Buttons dominance in even the most M.O.R 2008 lists. The new stuff pulsating through my ears tonight though; it's... implusive, almost immediate. Andrew Weatherall, producer of upcoming album Tarot Sport, is to thank in part; his previous remix of 'Sweet Love For Planet Earth' offered a hint of the way things might go. As the cathartic, opening shrill of recent offertory-download 'Surf Solar' begins to swell over the crowd tonight, though, you begin to realise that, allowed to take the helm themselves, the duo push his initial idea into exhilarating territory. Sure, the relentless throb of ear-mangling noise still lurks; but it's as if, knowing they already possess it in their armoury, Power and Hung put their dissonant storms aside until the new foundations are ready to hold it. Then, once they've hoodwinked us into thinking we're under the influence of a very macabre form of techno, they throttle us with that now recognisably searing beam of fuzz that penetrates straight into the skull like an X-Wing shooting a Deathstar.
Tonight's set is new material-heavy, dwarfing the tracks offered from Street Horrrsing considerably, no mean feat. 'Colours Move' may still be filled with the sense of a queasy reluctance to reach its visceral crescendo, but tonight its familiarity is almost imbued with a sense of warmth. This is far from an insult to its newer brethren, but beasts such as 'Rough Steez', at this point, remain as unknown as they are monolithic. It's a combination that leaves those in attendance tonight looking apprehensive, as if to immerse themselves in these sonic floods would be to let go of some metaphorical rail of safety. That sounds dramatic, but then Fuck Buttons themselves seem to be pushing towards grandiose plains themselves. Hearing 'Bright Tomorrow' tonight, on record a techno shelter from their sandstorm of noise, makes it feel like it's been reduced to being no greater than the sum of its toy parts. Put next to the gnashing jaws of set closer 'Flight Of The Feathered Serpent', it stands no chance.
So tonight is a gig to shatter preconceptions. Certainly not everyone's mind; a fair few in attendance have long since fled for the safer recesses of the downstairs bar, but then what do you expect? Fuck Buttons may be opening their door for wider consumption this time round, but it's still a tight fit for some; you wouldn't want it any other way though. Whilst we all enjoy a bit of a sing along from time to time, it'd be pointless listening to music and not wanting to be challenged; Fuck Buttons give us this. This time, though, they want us to dance a little as well.