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Fuck Buttons

Slow Focus

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One of the oddest and most impressive things about Slow Focus is how it manages to burble, groan, stammer, and seethe and yet never cross the line from melody into discord. From the cacophonous percussion that ushers in the opening track, "Brainfreeze," Slow Focus often seems as if it might break apart into science-fiction static at any moment. That drama — and the sturdy soundscapes that give rise to it — marks this album as one of 2013's finest.

Slow Focus offers many pleasures: the buzzsaw distortion that underpins "The Red Wing," the ebb and flow of ambience on "Year of the Dog" and "Stalker," a track that sounds as if the namesake Tarkovsky film had been stripped of its Eastern Bloc sterility and reset in 23rd-century Bangkok, all jungle steam and throbbing pulse.

"Hidden XS" charts a consistent soaring trajectory upward, until it lands somewhere in the vicinity of Flash Gordon's Sky City, replete with golden breastplates and metal hawk-wings. The album's most antisocial track, "Sentients," might also be its best, with a horror-movie string section and scolding robotic drone.

As a preteen I special-ordered an album of sound effects from the original 1960s Star Trek TV show and used to put it on just to listen to the hum of phaser beams and the gurgle of the transporter. With Slow Focus, Fuck Buttons has deconstructed the science-fiction sound effect and spun it into something both operatic and ominous, which is no mean feat. (ATP Recordings)

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