Fuck Buttons, Factory Floor

Holly Cruise 22/04/2010

Whilst normally the prospect of watching three grown men bicker like five year-olds would be enticing entertainment, advertise it as an Election Leaders' Debate and suddenly it all comes up looking rather grim and depressing. Those squabbling fools (one marginally less foolish than the other two) are our potential leaders. Grim grim grim.

So how are we to soundtrack this occasion? The doomy synth-drones of Factory Floor, or the arms-in-the-air euphoria of Fuck Buttons? And must we do so in the ever-sonically-challenged bunker which is the Club Academy? Yes, but that's life.

Factory Floor certainly like to err on the doomy side of things. Their set consists of five slabs of ice in song form; cold and shiny perhaps, but not necessarily something you'd want to get too close to. Synths drone and the guitarist uses violin bows, drumsticks, pretty much anything that's not a plectrum, to force thunderous crashes from her instrument.

They do a good line in songs which sound like evil twins to other songs. There's one which is 'Divebomb' by The Whip, but evil. Then there's the one which is an evil 'I Feel Love'. Sure, there are other songs which use Moroder's galloping arpeggiated bassline ('Stuck On Repeat' by Little Boots springs to mind) but in Factory Floor's hands it really is only distinguishable by the crashes of mangled guitar and the singer trying to hit the lowest notes possible rather than Donna Summer aiming for the highest.

Individually each track isn't half bad but it all just adds up to something too cold to really get behind. Chilly and noisy music has been done better recently by Gang Gang Dance and Cold Cave, the latter of whom share a lot musically with Factory Floor whilst injecting just a smidgeon of humanity into the vocals. As it was, Factory Floor's humanity was limited to the gloriously give-a-fuck drummer who wanders in halfway through the first song, wanders off halfway through the last song, and is really rather good.

Fuck Buttons opt for a table full of wires, pedals, and strange luminous items, none of which seem to obviously indicate which layer of their sound will be produced when played. Or indeed how they are played, in some cases. Dressed like a trucker and a ski instructor (complete with stripy bobble hat), Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power like to approach their music like a pair of chess grandmasters, facing off against each other on either side of a table strewn with noise creating wires and the occasional puff of dry ice.

And what does this array get you for your pennies? Layers. The key to Fuck Buttons' sound is the way they layer each song, building and building on thumping beats, each whoosh adding that little bit more to the collage. It doesn't half inspire the reviewer to use some pretentious words, I tell thee!

The Club Academy isn't the best venue for this sort of intricate work, it drowns and muddies, throwing back the sound as a lump of mud, rather than a flowing river. It's a credit to Fuck Buttons that they most manage to avoid this, the chattering clatter of 'Surf Solar' like an infinite number of electronic monkeys playing an infinite number of synthesizers in ever increasing numbers shaking the room into life. At one point the pair pick up microphones, but the mics are run through so many effects pedals and wires that it sounds like a Clanger rap battle, '8 Mile' recast by sackcloth kids TV characters, whistling at each other meaningfully.

It's not the sort of music you can do anything other than waggle yours arms about to, leisurely and euphoric in the cuts from recent album Tarot Sport, clattery and more abstract when they crack out the more obtuse stuff from debut Street Horrrsing. Recent single 'Olympians' is a highlight, epic, beautiful and wonderful. The mostly male audience responds with spaced out hand gestures and waving of hands, like a parody of an early 1990s rave, but with music every bit as good.

Not for the casual gig goer, seven minute hypnotic drones tend not to be, but oh so blissful for the faithful.