With this second full-length, Fuck Buttons continue to move from noise to transcendent raves. Their early singles may have sounded like a less abrasive Black Dice, but Tarot Sport calls upon the beat-driven, spiritually-enflamed techno a la Moby and Underworld. Even the album name hints at Fuck Buttons’ volatile combination of mysticism and sweatiness. Here, glistening swaths of synthesized other-ness are punctuated by the driving, drum-machine pulse of vigorous exertion.
Fuck Buttons’ Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power had Andrew Weatherall remix the breakout “Sweet Love for Planet Earth,” from last year’s Street Horrrsing, then asked him to produce the whole of Tarot Sport. Several of the longer tracks – “Surf Solar” particularly – seem to forge on where “Sweet Love” left off, building radiant architectures of synthetic sounds, then sawing them sideways with serrated, rust-encrusted beats. These rhythms are really the only noisy bit left in Fuck Buttons, and they are shown off to best advantage in “Rough Steez.” This cut, the shortest on the disc at 4:44, stamps out measures like a drill press, roughly, mechanically and with the clang of colliding metal parts. “Phantom Limb,” the other short-ish cut, is another jolter, all buzz and clatter and interlacing rhythms. They’re both bracing bits of antagonism, palate cleansers between bouts of exhilarating joyfulness. “Rough Steez” is bracketed by “Surf Solar” on one side, “The Lisbon Maru” on the other. “Lisbon Maru,” in particular, uses swelling crescendos and tremulous tone-washes to convey ecstasy, much as Moby’s “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters” did a decade or two ago.
The main problem with Tarot Sport is that it sometimes seems to be trying too hard, building drama into repetitive riffs by sheer force, urging greater and greater effort on listeners who are already a bit out of breath. You can’t listen to the driving, striving “Olympians” without feeling a bit of an aerobic burn – or without flashing, at least briefly, on the theme from Chariots of Fire. Okay, fine, it’s fantastic music for the last mile of a marathon, but for sitting quietly with a new Le Carré novel? Not so much.
It’s interesting though, how the sheer physicality of these tunes blossoms into something like spiritual transport. Listen like you’re running hard, gasping, burning, wanting a break, and you’ll maybe glimpse bliss through the sweat.