Fuck Buttons Live @ The Library. 8/9/2013

First date in the Slow Focus tour and for some reason Fuck Buttons decide to visit Birmingham first. Not that I’m complaining of course, I’m glad they chose to come here at all.

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It’s been a while since any writeup on any live event because, well, I havent been to any. I saw Ludovico Einaudi much earlier in the year but I didnt write about it for a variety of reasons, this is basically one of the first gigs I’ve been to since about December. And what a return it promised to be; Fuck Buttons supported by The Haxan Cloak in the recently renovated HMV Institute, aka the Library now or something, it’s confusing. The last time I saw these guys (and indeed for the first time) was back in Paris at the Pitchfork Festival, so they had something pretty major to live up to. I called it at the time possibly the best live performance I’ve seen so far, which says quite a lot.

After what seemed like aeons waiting, The Haxan Cloak eventually made his way to the stage. Now, his debut album earlier this year, Excavation, isn’t exactly my favourite album of the year. I found it rather hollow and somewhat lacking in direction; it needed a bit more oomph and a stronger focus on the Ambient Dub/Techno aspects that it flirted with in my opinion. That being said, I was pretty much blown away with his live set. It’s one of those performances where you feel like you’re losing your mind; I was at the front and I was just watching him fiddle with all the buttons and dials and knobs and the lights behind him were strobing and occasionally blinding, and when they coincided with some of the more overwhelming moments in the music where the drone and noise reaching their frenzied heights I thought my head was going to explode. I’ve no idea what he played, I’m not familiar with many of his tracks so I can’t tell any fans of his what he did, but it was pretty crushing. Live and with the loudest sound system you can muster is probably the best way to experience that album; the sub-bass was fat and the thicker techno pulses on top were dirty and growling and abrasive. There were moments of rhythm and beat, but they were counterbalanced pretty well with just obliterating walls of noise. Pretty great.

And then an even longer wait. I think they had some technical problems with their setup; the stage was just a mass of wires and gizmos so I can’t really blame them. But when they finally came on it was, needless to say, worth the wait. Here’s the setlist from as far as I could make out/remember:

  • Brainfreeze
  • Space Mountain?
  • Colours Move
  • Olympians
  • Sentients
  • The Red Wing
  • Stalker
  • Flight of the Feathered Serpent?

This is as best as I can remember, I may be completely wrong on a few of these. It’s important to note that Fuck Buttons live are utterly different, it can be a bit tricky sometimes picking out what tracks they’re playing.

As you can see they obviously focused pretty strongly on the new album’s tracks but they blew them out of the water as far as I’m concerned. I love Slow Focus, if it wasnt clear in my review, but the live experience was far superior in my opinion, and it’s clear to see why these guys have focused down on such a percussive and rhythmic sound for this release; it’s way more fun. Tracks like Olympians and Flight of the Feathered Serpent, they aren’t required to do too much knob fiddling, there’s lot of builds and just standing still. But they got to break out of their shell a little bit when the massively revamped Sentients came storming out, it was hard to keep a straight face or a stationary body with that relentless bassline and squealing flairs, similarly true for Brainfreeze and in some respects Colours Move.

I also think the balance of old and new tracks was interesting when it came to the audience; the guy standing next to me was going apeshit over the newer, beat-driven stuff from SF but didnt really know what to do when the basslines got a bit more stifled and convoluted in, say, Colours Move. To me, hearing and seeing Ben scream down that little toy microphone and laying on those massive syncopated drum beats was the pinnacle of euphoric catharsis but it was pretty clear that some people weren’t enjoying it quite so much. Similarly so with Olympians, which is possibly one of my favourite tracks ever and they do such a fantastic live alternative. But that’s precisely what I love about these guys; it’s possible to have a good time, to get a bit of a groove on and get caught up in some of the beats but at the same time have your face scorched off by the searing noise washes occasionally injected. The live set is really flexible, the graphics were great, the disco ball also made a reappearance, and I had a thoroughly great time. Although I am now slightly deaf in one ear, but that’s just life.

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