Albums of the Decade: Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing (All Tomorrow’s Parties, 2008)


Even in 2016 we still often consider and perceive electronic music in many of its guises to be futuristic and forward leaning in its gaze, its carefully engineered sounds a testament and symbol of Man’s ingenuity and ever increasing sophistication he brings to all aspects of life. Conversely, simple, primal melodies seem to have an ingrained sensation of natural connectivity and a retrospective feeling that connects us intimately to our surroundings and ancestral past, and up until very recently these two styles of sound were rather at odds to one another, as though never the twain should meet. But here in Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power’s debut LP Street Horrrsing a crossover between intimate spirituality and methodical electronica is made possible and the result is more potent than you’d imagine.

A small and youthful innocence bookends the record, first taking shape in the tinkling xylophonic opening moments of “Sweet Love For Planet Earth” before buffeting, abrasive, growling guitar drone begins to drown it out with bleak and grey smotherings. Chugging at first, it quickly agglutinates into whitewashing obliterations that are ultimately filled with impassioned and anguished screaming (I’ve always assumed by Ben). Few words are intelligible with the exception of the insistent and terrifying “WHY”s but a few choice words stand out in amidst the chaos:

“What will become of us, will we evolve?”

Mixed up in these raging, boiling walls of noise are fears and anxieties that concern the long term survival of our species, a scouring current of realisation that looks beyond the material now into a dark and uncertain future if things don’t change. The pace and construction of album centrepiece “Okay, Let’s Talk About Magic” is similarly developmental and exploratory, see-sawing on pulsating guitar blasts and fluttering synths before resolving into a cathartic noise entity that seems to rally behind yet also scourge Ben’s returned agonising screams and confused yammerings, ultimately pushing out the incoherence and replacing it with harsh yet satisfyingly enlightening logic.

This results in a transformation through the latter half of the record away from the claustrophobic densities of the former, relegating this harsh voice to a backseat as “Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise” takes a curiously bright and empowered turn; humble synth lines balloon in the backfield and help to diffuse the rich but still buffeting guitar-noise wind as it climbs to stratospherically luxurious heights. Eventually this roaring fight against oppression culminates in the optimistic bloom of “Bright Tomorrow”, leading out on driving drum kicks and a skittering electronic line that strives to keep this positivity alive. Eventually the heady drone walls reappear but they collapse like a bursting bubble of adrenalin, a dramatic powerhouse of heaving emotion suddenly unleashed with its marching and methodical assistants that point to a good future driven by our own hands.

Finally the effortlessly consuming “Colours Move” arrives abruptly to take us out and carry us away. Our existential crisis resolved and emotional state set to the rhythm of its tribal drum repetitions and buzzing drone sustenance, it’s both cruising and propulsive in equal measure, hypnotic in its endlessly insistent beat cyclings as time crawls to a loop. But we can’t end before we snap out of our trip and hear those fragile introductory twinklings again, like our trigger to summon us out of a trance and carry us back to our innocent reality.

Street Horrrsing finds itself trapped between the old and the new, bridging the gap between the primal feelings and religious fervour of old and the sense of indefatigable logic of a digital world, and seemingly fighting the good fight for both sides in equal measure. It seems Fuck Buttons are telling us that perhaps the world doesn’t work well in black & white and maybe we need to have the flexibility of balance to make it a bright tomorrow, to find a middleground between the cold head and the warm heart in equal measure to be fulfilled. Too right I say, and there are plenty who’ve yet to learn such a valuable lesson.

Albums of the Decade will return on April 1st