Floating around the internet last fall before emerging on a 7" in November, Fuck Buttons' "Bright Tomorrow" proved surprisingly resilient. The duo's blunt repetition of simple elements-- metronomic drum-machine, chugging synth, blissful keyboard, and distorted screams-- seems like a formula for tedium. But the song somehow gets stronger with each replay. For a noise group, Fuck Buttons are surprisingly welcoming-- for noise music, anyway-- and their mix of dreamy melody and abrasive climax evokes strange stylistic bedfellows: Yo La Tengo and Ministry, My Bloody Valentine and Prurient, Spacemen 3 and Black Dice.
"Bright Tomorrow" wasn't the web's first glimpse of Fuck Buttons, or even of this album: Street Horrrsing was available for free from the band's website (under a since-forgotten alternate title) when Pitchfork first wrote about the duo in Forkcast more than a year ago. But with the record now seeing official release, anyone hoping for an LP-length version of "Bright Tomorrow" will not be disappointed. For 50 minutes spread across six tracks, Fuck Buttons craft hypnotic patterns with the same set of sonic tools (plus live-sounding drums, in tribal Boredoms-meets-Animal Collective mode). Long chords drift over oscillating tones and pounding beats. Simple figures build slowly into cresendos punctuated by fiery howls. Sounds and ideas repeat constantly, yet Street Horrrsing never feels redundant.
The key to how Fuck Buttons pull this off lies in their creative origins: Brits Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power formed the group in 2004 with the goal of creating pain-inducing noise music, but soon became curious about mixing in prettier sounds, and adding structure and melody to their brutal tracks. Still, they never lost the aggression and abstraction of their noise leanings: They're not afraid to let a beat pound forever, or let a drone wash slowly, or let a pedal loop endlessly. Where more traditional groups might worry that a part goes on too long, Fuck Buttons seem fascinated by what will happen if it does, riding it just past the point of expectation before hitting you with the next big switch-up. It's a trick that gives Street Horrrsing a sense of constant tension, with another surprise detonation always looming around the corner.
The album begins with "Sweet Love For Planet Earth", whose sparkly synths and pulsing drone bring to mind Gang Gang Dance's starry-eyed explorations. The patient power of that track courses through the rest of this seamless record. It's in the drum circles and chants of "Ribs Out", the chopping drift of "Okay, Let's Talk About Magic", and the blown-out metal vocals of "Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise", which seem to make time melt away. Throughout, Fuck Buttons stick religiously to simple ideas, but mix them in surprising ways. When you expect a scream to burst forward, a synth figure slides in, or a bass rumbles up from the background. Still, the duo's signature is devout repetition. And by the time the loops of album closer "Colours Move" finally dissolve, Street Horrrsing has become one big loop itself-- an unbroken sonic circle.
Words - Marc Masters, March 17, 2008 - www.pitchforkmedia.com