Gig Review: Fuck Buttons

Slow Focus fbThursday, 24th October @ Oxford Art Factory

There I was, a sad, broken shell of a man, more used up and dishevelled than a street whore. I’d spent the day being abused at a job I hated, and had more or less been rejected with the article that I’d been working on all week. I was in an emotional fit on par with the crux of your average teen romantic romp. That is to say, incredibly depressed. After a day of Eric’s Trip, Elliot Smith, and Marf Loth, I made my way to the Oxford Art Factory, an industrial space in Surry Hills, a venue which some of the best bands of the year (FIDLAR, Thundercat, TOY) have utilised to splatter their noise on the unsuspecting masses. That Thursday night was an average night for OAF: a legendary band putting on a legendary performance, and making all in attendance, including the moping sad sack of shit that was myself, have a killer night.

First band that was seen by the sadder-than-Marlon-Brando-circa-70-years-old individual in the room was Standish/Carlyon. A darkwave duo made up of Conrad Standish and Tom Carlyon, these dudes know how to tickle the senses. Their music is a sultry mixture of S&M and diehard pop, which sounds like a strange concept, and when shown live looks even stranger. Conrad rocks a porn ‘stache, a chestful of man-hair, and a leather cap, a low slung bass his weapon of choice. Meanwhile, Tom is tweaking a mixture of knobs, completely mesmerised in his band’s booming, slightly disturbing music. I feel as though Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton only have sex to this music. 

Watching Standish/Carlyon live is a divisive thing. You’re either bored out of your mind, or total engaged with the music to an unhealthy degree. It would be fair to say that about 30% of the room were of the former, and 70%, including moi,  were in the latter half. That’s just called maths. The raw, blue music that flowed so naturally from the stage was completely unique and although a bit slow at some times, was made up through through the intrigue and mystique that the band portrayed.

After Standish/Carlyon prepared the audience for some mind-fuckery, Fuck Buttons graced the stage with their earth-shattering music. After 4-5 minutes of a single, prolonged note, the duo of James Hung and Benjamin John Power joined their instruments on stage, and burst into current single ‘Brainfreeze’. It was at this point that I finally figured out how to identify Fuck Buttons music. A thing so desperately interesting and complex shouldn’t be labelled half-heartedly, but I’ve decided that the most accurate descriptor for Fuck Buttons’ music is ‘glacial’. This becomes very apparent once seen in a live setting: lumbering, slow beats that give off a wondrous sense of beauty from far-off, and only become more fascinating when examined more deeply.

Fuck Buttons’ music continued to tumble and pierce the room, filling it exponentially with an electric quality, vibing the room to dangerous proportions. Everyone was having a different reaction to the music. To my left, there was a fist-bumping. pinger-chewing gentleman with a shit-eating grin smothered on his face, withelbows that flailed in every direction. To my right, a quiet indie chick shuffled her feet, eyes closed, slight grin spreading wider and wider as the set went on. Everywhere, people nodded their heads to the music, invisible tendrils of sound infecting the brain, bringing the audience under Fuck Buttons’ weird spell of deep house fed through a filter of several layers screams, static and tortured banshee cries.

The most interesting thing about the set, is that although it was nearly an hour and a half long, it was only compromised of eight songs. Eight songs! Ihave more fingers than that, and I’ll go ahead and assume you do as well. However, every song on that setlist was killer. ‘Surf Solar’ and ‘Colours Move’, the latter including some live cries and obliteration of touch pads from the band, proved to be early highlights, whilst the double smackaroo of ‘The Red Wing’ and ‘Hidden XS’ (my personal two favourite songs from ‘Slow Focus’) got the audience to an all time frenzy.

Another highlight of the set was the band’s amazing visuals. Although the duo didn’t really, how do you say, ‘interact with the audience’ (a mumbled sentence at the close of the set were the only words spoken from the stage), the backdrop behind the band was enough to distract from some bullshit stage banter. ‘Brainfreeze’ was a shimmering display of natural wonders, and ‘The Red Wing’ featured a hawk or an eagle flapping, and yet it was so in time with the ball-tripping sinister music, it gave the simple video so much more depth than usually watching half a wing flap would warrant. And on top of all this, the silhouettes of the two members were shone onto their trippy visuals, so every movement, from a nose pick to a ball scratch, was captured in vivid, 2 second delayed blackness. Awesome!

Overall, Fuck Buttons are one of the great noise bands of recent history. They haven’t released anything terrible, ever, and their 3rd record is a work of genius. Live, the music becomes more ear-splattering and blistering than usual, and you’ll be lucky to leave the venue without welts forming on your ears. That’s all a good thing by the way. Visually entrancing, and with a sound that is their own, Fuck Buttons put on a killer show that should be seen by anyone with a pulse.

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