Fuck Buttons were a new collaboration getting their feet wet on 2008’s Street Horrrsing. That album produced the excellent “Sweet Love for Planet Earth” and hinted at great things to come. It didn’t take long. 2009’s Tarot Sport is one of my favorite records of the last ten years and set the bar for the duo’s follow-up into the stratosphere. Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power have, however, faced that pressure head-on, this time self-producing a near-masterpiece.
The track list plays similarly to Tarot Sport, housing a sparse amount of tracks that extend past the 10-minute mark in some instances. The opening tribal drums of opener “Brainfreeze” play like the breakbeat of the apocalypse, and it only takes until the 1:20 mark for the song to swell into all-out carnage that holds for the duration of its eight and a half minutes. Tarot Sport excelled on the backend with the epic “Space Mountain” and “Flight of the Feathered Serpent,” and Slow Focus continues that trend. “Stalker” is a blissfully exquisite track that doesn’t rush to get to its breathtaking climax. Instead, it spends six minutes steadily building until various synths, soundscapes, and drums meet at a wall of sound. That description might actually cover much of the Fuck Buttons catalog, and it’s a formula that works track-after-track on this gem.
Slow Focus‘ highpoint is its closer “Hidden Xs.” While following the formula of the tracks that precede it, the song brings the duo into new and exciting territory. An underlying hip hop beat pulses during the song’s first two minutes or so until the breakbeat hits hyperdrive and takes a left turn into trip hop psychedelica. The album is darker, more focused, and more inspired than anything they’ve done before. Slow Focus (set to release in North America on July 23) may be the highpoint of the band’s discography, as well as our favorite album of 2013.