Fuck Buttons never surrender. Despite working with abrasive sounds that would make most people cower and hide, the group melds those gnarled textures into hulking monuments of noise that empower and inspire. Their best songs, like the menacing “Race You To My Bedroom/Spirit Rise” or the Olympic-worthy “Surf Solar,” move with the unnerving patience and the killer instinct of monolithic spacecrafts casting a shadows over a city. Mixing elements of noise rock and drone with rave music, shoegaze and metal, the songs hit with the simplicity of a piercing laser and weight of a crumbling building. The group’s latest album, Slow Focus is a corrective to that destructive impulse: This is the first Fuck Buttons album that feels like post-invasion music. Victory lingers, but it also stings.
 
It’s not surprising to find the duo of Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Powe getting a little reflective on their third album. The pair arrived with 2008′s Street Horrrsing, a quaking transmission from a satellite heart, and they soon followed with 2009′s Tarot Sport, a pulsating techno bloodbath. Where both of those albums found the two working with outside producers (Mogwai’s John Cummings on Street and Andrew Weatherall on Tarot), Slow Focus is a self-produced affair, created without the outside impetus of another creative force. It’s the closes thing the world will ever get to an inward looking Fuck Buttons album.
 

 
What does an inward looking Fuck Buttons album sound like? Loud, mostly. The band’s music has always been punishing, but here they’ve removed most of the crackling, bled-out TV screen fuzz and replaced it with bursts of clattering percussion and post-punk meets industrial skronk. The first sound on the album’s opening track, “Brainfreeze,” is a drum that barrels towards you with a Yeezus-like sense of wide-eyed determination. The song is so invested in rhythm that even when little disruptive details appear—like the unsettling squeaks that must’ve flown in from “Tomorrow Never Knows”—they quickly get swallowed up into the whole like a bird flying into a propeller. The band’s commitment to head-knocking drums is confirmed on the lonely kraut vision quest “The Red Wing” and the wobbling stutter-step search light “Sentients.” Even the bits of feedback feel like they could’ve been pounded out on an MPC. It’s a lesson in percussive fascism: Fall in line or get flattened.
 
The main difference between the new record and the pair’s earlier works is that the intensity of the music isn’t being used to create feelings of transcendence or empowerment this time. Like Boards Of Canada’s similarly spooky Tomorrow’s Harvest, this is creepy music that draws from the mood and ambiance (and soundtracks) of classic horror films. Where Harvest pillaged the used VHS bin behind the counter of your favorite damp record store, Slow Focus has a shiny Blu-Ray tint to it. The spookiest songs come with a polish: the simmering blood drops of “Year Of The Dog,” the pristine Game Boy squelches of “Prince’s Prize,” the blaring synths of “Stalker.” They’re rolling through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but they’re doing it in style.
 
Slow Focus ends with its two longest and most refined compositions—the 10-minute plus “Stalker” and “Hidden XS”—and it’s here that the expansiveness of the project becomes most apparent. “Hidden XS” in particular, with its steady drums, sweeping synth woosh’s and its quivering bits of static, is complicated and layered in its construction but simple in its purpose. It wants to leave you empty. It wants to hollow you out. It wants to finish you. Resistance is futile.