IMG_3510-1024x682

Space Burn at The Independent

Hands in the air: to block out light, to rapturously respond to music, to express gratitude. Such were some of the singular gestures on Wednesday night, October 14, at the sold-out Fuck Buttons show at the Independent in San Francisco. As the opener, Bay Area-based duo opening Spaceburn entranced the overwhelmingly male crowd with dark overtures straddling noise and dub techno. Standing at their consoles, in dim lighting, the pair faced the audience throughout their set. Soon after, Fuck Buttons, shrouded in more darkness, and facing each other for almost the entirety of their set, offered more aggressive sounds and visuals. Nursing microphones against or inside their mouths, the pair—Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power —let forth ghoulish screams. In a rare turn to face the audience, Ben, with the posture of a soldier and dressed in a camouflage jacket, played a live drum. The set was exhausting. A few times, Andy, clad in a a white t-shirt, stepped back and sat down to take a drink; a breather between the energy of those singular hands.

Early on, between tracks, spotlights turned on the audience. A few people tried to block them out but to little avail. Andy and Ben, whom we knew were in front of us, couldn’t be seen. It gave the audience a chance to shine as the performers. When the spotlights returned to Fuck Buttons, the dizzying effect was a feeling that we had rotated on a revolving stage. This planetary motion was fitting accompaniment to music galactic in scope.

Before the show, the duo spoke to Resound, and clarified about the possibility of that so-called global sound; a music that emerges from and appeals to everyone. Andy affirmed its existence, but distinguished global music from pop music. He argued that Fuck Buttons’ music could never be classified as pop because of the lack of lyrics and the length of the tracks, but recognized a “primal” quality to their sound.

IMG_34271-1024x682

pre-show interview

“What comes across is very easy to attach to,” he said.

Their records are also accessible while simultaneously personal.  Their three albums are “snapshots,” Ben proposes, in time. But both agree that their music is not the product of a particular space and “doesn’t have any sense of geographical location,” whether Worcester, where they grew up, Bristol, where they attended school, or London, where they currently live. When I asked about digital streaming services, which facilitate the parceling of albums into individual tracks, Ben noted  the structure they have worked to develop for each album. While it is not “wrong” for the public to listen to tracks separately, their “preferred” approach is for listeners to experience each album as a whole, which allows the audience to “get an idea of intention.”

Outside of the effectively disorienting lights, the only image on stage at the Independent is Andy and Ben with their equipment. They evoke a similar symmetry on their three album covers, all of which Ben designed. Andy views this visual duality as representative of their creative partnership but notes the lack of a “buffer” between the two sides. Standing at their console, only making eye contact with each other during their encore, the two are clearly part of one musical mind. In performing, Ben’s eyes are closed and he narrowly sways left to right. Andy’s head pushes front to back and occasionally he steps one or two feet back from the table. During our interview, he mentions his interest in learning about America’s purported new embrace of electronic music, and potentially echoing that interest, he occasionally looks into the crowd during their set.

Fuck Buttons at The Independent

Fuck Buttons at The Independent

Andy also explained that the three Fuck Buttons albums are “documents of [the pair’s] history.” But to what extent is a recording authentic? Is the goal of a recording to accurately encapsulate a live experience? Or is such a feat impossible? In Perfecting Sound Forever (2009), Greg Milner writes that Thomas Edison believed a recording, in fact, could be “truer, purer, realer than the musical event it documented.” When asked about this notion, Ben insisted that their recording process, done in live takes, is directly related to their public performance: “We write in a live capacity.” Their setup on stage is identical to their setup in recording. Yet, permutations surely arise. Andy noted that they “don’t play the songs the same way as [they’ve] recorded them.”

Back at the show, in the last three tracks of the evening, which were more immediately danceable than their predecessors, the audience was again drawn into the narrative of the show.

And then: two more hands heralded the bombastic evening. One, raised in corporeal ecstasy by a fan close to the stage, fluttering in time with the driving percussion. Another, lifted even higher, a beer bottle in tow, to say thanks to the audience.

Article by Bryan Cockrell
Photos by Dylan Wexler

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.