Fuck Buttons crank the noise, add nuance

Despite using a name you wouldn't repeat in polite company, the London instrumental duo Fuck Buttons really isn't that unpalatable. This month's Tarot Sport even ditches the background screams and most of the fevered tribal rhythms of last year's debut, Street Horrrsing. Tarot Sport is more expansive, unveiling wide swaths of live drums, twitchy loops and pulses, heady drones, and a battery of sucking, erupting, and drizzling synths. There's an emphasis on soaring volume, but in the service of a majestic, cleansing experience.

Members Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have never considered Fuck Buttons a noise band, even though their early reputation was built upon walls of blistering sound. "We were definitely interested in loud music," Hung explains. "We still are."

Hung and Power both grew up in the town of Worcester and started collaborating in Bristol, where they were pursuing art degrees, Hung in fine arts and Powers in illustration. The pair came together after having explored very different musical poles. Power spent his teens in punk and hardcore bands, while Hung crafted electronic music on his own. Those backgrounds inform Fuck Buttons, and Tarot Sport is at its best when colliding the most strident and gorgeous elements of those respective backgrounds into a vivid, singular creation. The production work of house DJ Andrew Weatherall, who is half of Two Lone Swordsmen and co-produced Primal Scream's rock- and dance-fusing classic Screamadelica, only seals the deal.

A typical Fuck Buttons song is born from what Hung calls the "large pile of instruments we've accumulated," which includes rewired children's toys and other oddities. "We just play around until we discover sounds we enjoy and start merging them," he explains. "Once we're enjoying a particular loop, we'll embellish that with other things."

Logistically, the band can't haul along every instrument on tour. That's where sampling comes in. Still, the majority of a Fuck Buttons show involves live instrumentation and live manipulation of sounds. That's impressive, considering the vast array of textures on Tarot Sport. It's tough to identify the sources of all the noises the group makes, and the percussion evolves considerably. The beats fall into a traditional march at the end of "The Lisbon Maru," only to wobble and sway in all directions on "Flight of the Feathered Serpent." Each song ranges in length from five to 10 minutes, giving the duo plenty of space to explore.

"We don't have song structures we adhere to, so normally they're comprised of repetition," Hung notes, "and rhythm is something that's ingrained into repetition."

Rhythm and repetition, though, are simply the bedrocks for a band that is expanding its reach all the time. As much as Fuck Buttons thrive on disparate elements, Hung and Power have mastered the art of reconciling them and harnessing their collective power. That, in the end, is what makes Tarot Sport such a unique, even accessible, adventure.

 
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