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Praise be to this blog for allowing me the space to write out my thoughts on Fuck Buttons’ show at El Rey Theatre Thursday night because if I were to tell you about it in person, I’d be shouting at the top of my lungs. It wouldn’t be solely for the fact that I thought their show was certainly one of this year’s best and that I had to SAY IT LIKE THE STATEMENT WAS IN ALL CAPS, but it would also be because I probably couldn’t hear myself talking to you at a normal volume. Truth be told, I’ve had a weekend to recover, but I still can’t hear anything. And I love it.

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Photos by David Fisch

The electronic duo from Brighton released Slow Focus last year to much critical success, and for good reason. It’s a breathless and enveloping hour of menacing rhythms, dense layering, and purified intensity that you can’t simply admire from afar. It’s also the kind of aggressive power you really don’t want to mess with. We sure didn’t; it landed on our Top 50 albums of 2013 list and on my personal Top 15.

I missed Fuck Buttons’ performance in Los Angeles last year during Culture Collide Festival, but I was happy to know that they’d be coming around the bend again this year, this time stopping by the always-great El Rey Theatre. I knew I should gear myself up for the event, but knowing the very nature of Fuck Buttons’ recordings, I decided to check my ear plugs at the door and be swallowed whole in 75 minutes of aural destruction.

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As El Rey’s famous curtain split in half, all that was revealed was a table full of wires and equipment, as well as a large screen. What was to be presented on the screen would soon be made clear as Fuck Buttons — comprising Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power — entered the stage, and their figures appeared as projections from small, mounted cameras.

The punishing drums of “Brainfreeze” immediately broke the silence of anticipation in the ballroom, and just as the groove began to take way, so did the imagery on screen, which varied from rainbow-colored geometric shapes to television static, all inverted with imagery that integrated into the duo’s projections. It made for an utterly arresting visual to each track they performed, some of which, by the way, easily lasted up to ten minutes in length.

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As I’ve mentioned in my previous efforts to describe the band, it’s easy to get lost in their repetitions, and adding in the trippy visual elements of their live show only reinforced the notion. My favorite Fuck Buttons’ track, “Sentients,” which is a ticking time bomb of piercing noises and perhaps the best example of the band’s penchant for arresting electronic layering, was performed flawlessly live, completely washing El Rey in a wall of sound. The accompanying visuals were so compulsive you might have actually been okay dying right where you stood.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, watch the below.

Fans that know the band’s work well knew when to applaud after each track, but Fuck Buttons performed as if they were playing one continuous stream of music. This only helped to grow my admiration for their artistic integrity. Towards the end of show closer “Hidden X’s” and the caustic encore “Sweet Love For Planet Earth,” it was easy to see that they crafted a very specific performance to allow the audience into their soundscape, never stopping the ride for a break. Each track felt hand-picked and ordered to best present the audience with an idea of what was possibly going on in Fuck Buttons’ minds and, in turn, what was going on in their own as they listened in.

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I left El Rey unable to hear much, but I was fine with that. I knew the 75 minutes that had passed beforehand were splendidly transformative, and if I didn’t believe Fuck Buttons’ immediate Slow Focus was enough to make me feel alive, then their life-affirming performance set me straight. A simple stage setup with spectacular aural and visual range, Fuck Buttons at El Rey ranks as one of the year’s best shows for me, and if they are out on the road at some point, don’t miss the opportunity to experience it for yourself.

For more info:

Fuck Buttons
ATP Recordings