Fuck Buttons

It’s certainly been a strange journey so far in the life of Fuck Buttons. That name alone probably ensures they are unlikely to be making an appearance on Jimmy Fallon any time soon, but apparently it is not enough to stop their music from being included in a prime-time slot during the Opening Ceremony at the Olympics. You are just as likely to find them headlining a stage at the Glastonbury Festival to thousands as you are to find them in a tiny venue like the Echo on Friday night. Like their music, Fuck Buttons’ career is impossible to categorize.

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All photos by Laura Chirinos

Not that they will be too bothered. Since the art-noise electronics of their debut album they have progressed to the much more melodic, dance-infused majesty of Tarot Sport and, more recently, the hip hop-tinged dynamics of their excellent new album, Slow Focus. They have created a dense and enthralling mixture that is entirely their own. Last week, they brought that mix to the Culture Collide Festival in Echo Park to see if the walls of the Echo could hold their layers of sound.

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As it turned out, the venue barely managed it. For an hour, the duo stood on stage facing each other with a whole mess of equipment and wiring in front of them (and notably, not a single laptop in sight) as they recreated their brand of electronic music with both precision and intuition. The screeched vocals of Benjamin John Power made a brief appearance during an older track, but otherwise it was all buzzing drones, repetition, thumping beats, and huge swathes of sound.

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Seeing it live, I made a connection I had never made on record, namely the influence of shoegaze on the band. Their level of concentration and sheer volume reminded me of My Bloody Valentine. I’m not sure whether the influence is conscious or not, but both acts also manage to maintain a keen ear for melody through the chaos, and both have sounds that are both overwhelming and difficult to imitate without sounding like false impostors. Although the music sounded stunning bouncing off the walls of the Echo, it’s hard not to imagine how awe-inspiring Fuck Buttons would sound on a festival stage.

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As it is, I will have to make do with their superb set at the Culture Collide Festival for now. More objective analysis would normally be the way to go, but the truth is I spent most of this show dancing with my hood up and my eyes closed, completely lost in the music and almost forgetting where I was for the set’s duration. The music of Fuck Buttons, especially in a live setting, has that transformative and transportive effect, and this was proof that whatever the size of the stage, the band can hold an audience entirely captive. This was a damn good show.

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Fuck Buttons