"Surf Solar" and "Olympians," from 2009's Andrew Weatherall-produced Tarot Sport album, were major markers of Fuck Buttons fully finding the sound we now associate them with: monolithic sheets of noise shot through with otherworldly melodies. That winning combination is unsurprisingly in evidence again on Slow Focus, Benjamin Power and Andrew Hung's first self-produced album. That said, there are differences and points of progression—a more foreboding atmosphere, a broader palette of sounds and instrumentation—that prevent it from feeling like a retread.
"Brainfreeze" is a jaw-dropping opener. Waves of noise and a raw, analogue drum track quickly usher it to lift-off, whereupon it explodes with a snarling vocal loop into a truly pulverising howl. "Stalker," with its synth chimes (a Fuck Buttons trademark) and woozy bass drones, recalls some of the more regal moments on Tarot Sport. Recent single "The Red Wing" finds the pair's crescendo-building mastery in rude health, its chugging beginnings gradually coaxed to a patiently euphoric climax. "Sentients" may be Fuck Buttons' darkest moment to date, with a doom-laced vocal loop wrapping itself around crepuscular keys and bass, while album closer "Hidden XS" goes for the emotional jugular, its high keys and widescreen atmospherics recalling "Olympians."
They can't all be apocalypse-heralding monsters; "Year Of The Dog" and "Prince's Prize," while interesting, function mostly as buffers between the main events. There's nothing wrong with that, but these tracks probably won't be the reason people return to this record again and again. Return to it they will, though, because Slow Focus is more often than not an Olympic-standard piece of work.