2709-tarotsport.jpg

Fuck Buttons

Tarot Sport

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Label: ATP Recordings

The second half of Fuck Buttons’ acclaimed debut single, “Bright Tomorrow,” was a mess; it was a barely listenable melange of droning distortion and garbled screams exploding out of an opening half that flirted with synth-based, beat-driven dance floor accessibility. With wisdom far beyond their years, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power opted to fill their debut album with the menacing and abrasive sounds of the former. Street Horrrsing thoroughly explored the potential of drone-filled atmosphere, tribal rhythms and a general feeling of imminent apocalypse. On Tarot Sport, the Bristol-based duo takes a step back in order to take a step forward.

The drone is still here, of course, providing textures and haunting backdrops that are distinctly Fuck Buttons. But this album is firmly rooted in those first four minutes of “Bright Tomorrow.” It’s far more accessible, far less abrasive and–dare I say it–actually catchy. Album-lead “Surf Solar” picks up right where Street Horrrsing left off, its first minute mirroring the final minute of “Colours Move” in an alternate-reality sort of way. Both have an underlying shimmer, but distorted wails and washing drone are replaced by clean synths that sound like the audio of sunlight as recorded by the ocean’s surface, literally. The differences accurately capture Tarot Sport’s significant shift in tone.

From there, “Surf Solar” moves into building layers of synthesized percussion, unintelligible Gang Gang Dance-style semi-vocalizations and, finally, fuzzy distortion. Each of the seven monolithic tracks follows essentially the same model; starting in first gear on a gentle simmer before adding layer after layer of complexity, culminating in an often transcendent crescendo. Take the 10-minute album centerpiece, “Olympians.” It begins quietly with a jittery arrangement of synth and strings leftover from “The Lisbon Maru” before taking off running in its second minute with a racing layer of percussion. Piercing buzz and sustained keys borrowed from Dan Deacon’s “Wham City” follow and trade stretches with a delicate melody of echoing synth. Rising intensities of the various layers occasionally unify, providing the track with a series of peaks before quick disassembly into the garbled sea of opposing sounds that open “Phantom Limb.” Just as the end of Street Horrrsing foreshadowed the inception of Tarot Sport, each of these tracks alludes clearly to the next. The compositions seem to answer one another, leading the ear between points of interest.

Beyond simple transition, the structure of Tarot Sport is, at times, bewilderingly complex. Like a Gestalt illusion or the neon-orange Rorschach album art, these layered tracks have ambiguous shapes that tend toward varying interpretation. A given track can sound completely different through successive listens depending on which elements happen to catch the ear. This is most successful on the compositions that build more gradually and subtly (“Space Mountain”) than those with residual Street Horrrsing tribal elements (“Rough Steez”) or more obvious shifts in structure (“Phantom Limb”), which are more concrete and far less interesting.

“Flight of the Feathered Serpent” is probably Tarot Sport’s best offering. It hits a groove early and gallops over iridescent distortion toward some bright horizon. In many ways this closer is a reworking of that ever-present debut single, “Bright Tomorrow;” a track that seems more and more like the most comprehensive lesson in Fuck Buttons theory–but hopefully it won’t be. This effort is undeniably a masterful infusion of electronic accessibility into their sometimes off-putting drone roots. The listening experience is exponentially easier than that of 2008’s Street Horrrsing, a change that may alienate die-hards in search of a new challenge, but one that will ultimately widen this avant duo’s fan base. Label me excited to follow them through another transition into whatever comes next. Fingers crossed for a metal album.

  • Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

    [xrr rating=4.0/5]There’s an argument made in rock purist circles that electronic music so…
  • Revisit: Of Montreal: Cherry Peel

    Revisit: Of Montreal Cherry Peel 1997 Revisit is a series of reviews highlighting past rel…
  • The Books: The Way Out

    The Books The Way Out Rating: 4.0/5.0 Label: Temporary Residence Limited The Books are bac…
  • Tobacco: Maniac Meat

    Tobacco Maniac Meat Rating: 3.0/5.0 Label: Anticon On the heels of last year’s Eatin…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Revisit: Of Montreal: Cherry Peel

Revisit: Of Montreal Cherry Peel 1997 Revisit is a series of reviews highlighting past rel…