Since they formed in 2007, critics have held trouble figuring out where to place Fuck Buttons. Noise band? Post-rock group? Techno duo? All three fit. But not comfortably. Sophomore full-length, Tarot Sport, saw famed DJ/producer Andrew Weatherall brought in behind the boards, and the record exhibited a honed-in, accessible dance floor-focused sound while still holding onto the meteoric raw post-rock compositions that originally brought them recognition in the first place. Their sound is an amalgamation, influenced by many different styles yet independent of nearly everything. Needless to say, I was excited to see how their live show would translate to the New York City crowd at Le Poisson Rouge.
I arrived just as Brooklyn-based Oneohtrix Point Never was beginning his set in the wide rectangular main room. His performance was a disjointed, atmospheric, beatless drone of a live set. The underwhelming performance allowed the anticipation to progressively build for the UK duo. Set up face-to-face in front of a table full of electronics with everything ranging from synthesizers to children's musical instruments, they opened with the first song off Tarot Sport, "Surf Solar." The song's soaring mountain of sound coupled with the chugging four-to-the-floor beat, set the tone for the night.
Photo credit: Zach Dilgard
They essentially went track-by-track through their latest release, rarely stopping for breaks and occasionally accenting the performance with live drums. The mammoth "Olympians" played out like a main floor techno anthem and elicited the most movement from the crowd all night. The powerful and quick set ended on the highest of notes with the transcendent "The Flight of The Feathered Serpent." It was so long and loud that stray screams could be heard from the crowd. It was difficult to decipher whether they were coming from a place of agony or bliss.
The most interesting part of the night lay in watching the individual reactions that the duo's music garnered. It ranged from kinetic to static and fascinated to indifferent. Obviously Fuck Buttons' music is dynamic and loud, but what's striking is how personal it sounds. While outside having a word with the band, I could easily tell the sort of impact that it has: A fan strolled up and wordlessly hugged Ben Power. Power accepted the embrace as if it happens all the time.