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Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

July 23, 2013  |  2:34pm
Fuck Buttons: <i>Slow Focus</i>

Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung once made us ask how soft a noise band could get and still be noise; now we wonder how danceable they can get and still be ambient, except it’s not danceability per se. It’s how kinetic they can make sheer lumps of noise. Slow Focus has all the rousing fanfare, build-and-release, PLUR values of standard raves, except the tracks are five minutes longer and the amount of human touch is in question. Daft Punk has long since proven they’re human after all, but this year they did the sonic-robot equivalent of Kiss unmasking, while Boards of Canada prove their hearts aren’t as cold as their music wants one to think because they watch too many (nature? snuff?) films.

But these guys, who release records at a normal rate rather than once or twice a generation, are mostly interested in reshaping a sound as if on a pottery wheel, and thus their samples-or-generative-white-noises-or-whatever are as far removed from an original source as possible, all the better to segue into the next 10-minute odyssey that owes Glenn Branca as much as it playacts Tangerine Dream. Except there’s strings and marching drums this time, for that extra-arena effect (most notably on “Stalker”). You can make out individual pieces so much better now: “Sentients” takes the fire-alarm sounds of Kanye’s recent “I’m in It” and records them from the other side of the abandoned parking garage. “The Red Wing” has a slithering beast of a synth-fuzz-bass line, thick enough to cut with the chainsaw it resembles. “Prince’s Prize” could only be described as a stained-glass video game. It doesn’t feel like they’ve deepened or anything; if anything the duo continues to forge toward the middle. Noise music without edges couldn’t stay that noisy for long, especially not with these guys’ taste in simulated string pads.

Getting a tune played at the Olympics (“Olympians” of course) has given them a taste of universal rocking and rolling, and they want it ever-so-slightly more, before returning to unwashed feedback for ringing, dubstep-paced closer “Hidden XS,” which sounds like nothing else so much as Moby trying come up with a Philip Glass-sized orchestral sendoff to his album in 1995. They don’t sound like Moby, of course. But they sound like anonymous technoids coming to grips with what it means to want the world in musical terms that will most certainly put their faces on the map. Better invest in some robot helmets.

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