Work-out album of the year. Fuck Button's sophomore outing ups the ante on last year's Street Horrrsing, turning out six noise-techno epics brimming with sweat-soaked struggle, anthemic grandeur and soaring catharsis. With no less than Andrew Weatherall on the decks, the duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power get some real muscle behind them this time, and the beat-heavy results set them apart from fellow electronic-noise groups like Black Dice and Animal Collective. On Tarot Sport the minimal throb that underpinned earlier tracks has blossomed into dense layers of stampeding kraut drums that yield a frothy, unbridled momentum, like that of a careening rocket, or a runaway freight train. The drums are spurred on by rough, bristling synthesizers that for the most part spew out broad, emotive chord changes recalling both Brian Eno and M83—see, for example, the particularly gorgeous organ on "The Lisbon Maru" that intones over shaking bells and driving martial snares.
The combination of propulsive percussion and anthemic melodies consistently gives Tarot Sport a Vangelis-sized sense of triumph. When you hear flag-wavers like the blistering opener "Surf Solar" you can almost imagine them covering "Chariots of Fire," spraying the glistening '80s classic with grit and gasoline. The title itself implies a kind of mystic athleticism, like a runner's high, and the drawn-out peaks of overdriven fire that occupy big chunks of the record seem well-suited for the drama of the long distance run. If I ever win a marathon on the moon, I want the searing I/IV chords of "Olympian" to blare as I cross the finish-line and collapse in the lunar dust.
The fact that the Buttons pull off all this fist-pumping pathos on cheapo gear makes them kind of like Dan Deacon on Ritalin. While both acts are into a noisy, low-budget evocation of superhero glory, Deacon sounds like he's having a pillow fight on a sugar high, and the Buttons rather like they killed a blunt and then went jogging. Both Hung and Power's instruments seem to be composed mostly of thrift-store synths and components filched from a Radio Shack dumpster, and their live show consists of two piles of parts and wires over which the duo bob and weave, toy mics crammed in their mouths. On stage the two emanate the slightly devilish glee of a crackpot inventor watching his creations sputter to life, a tottering, adorable robot army. "Phantom Limb" encapsulates this tinkerer's joy with its abundance of gear-tooth clank and slot-machine clatter.
Hung and Power can get away such sonic weirdness in part because of their adaptation of straight-ahead rhythms. In their recent RA interview, Hung describes the musical freedom that comes from adopting a dance groove. It becomes, as he says, "a platform for exploration." In this way, Tarot Sport allows us to look at techno as the emblem of a populist experimental art, one that is open to new ideas but can connect viscerally with its audience at the same time.
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Tracklist: Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport 01. Surf Solar
02. Rough Steez
03. The Lisbon Maru
05. Phantom Limb
06. Space Mountain
07. Flight of the Feathered Serpent
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