Having produced one of the most intense and energy draining albums of 2008, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power return with a much more user-friendly take on their drone headache and one of the most succinctly perfect dance records I've heard for a good while. Street Horrrising had its fair share of melody and pop sensibility, but that's before a tone of ear scraping noise was dumped on it from a high height and all but obliterated any nod towards recognised form. That's not to say it wasn't an endlessly intriguing piece of work, but I must admit the shift that has occurred with Tarot Sport comes as a welcome change and one that retains all the edge we associate with this band, but channels them into subtler and more palatable structures.
There are various factors behind this change of approach and therefore sound. The enormous expanse of songs like Sweet Love For Planet Earth that opened the first album came from a post-rock school of thought and while this thinking still drives every song here it comes from a more electronic place. The other factor to bear in mind would be Andrew Weatherall at the helm. His influence is stamped all over this record and the combination of his techno history and Fuck Button's post-rock drone tendencies is a near-perfect marriage. The band explain Weatherall's input: "There are so many more layers of sound that we needed somebody with the ability to spread these out over a wide plane... The ambition of sound in this record required him to realise it." The result is massive synth textures that grow and evolve around meticulously constructed rhythms which together expand into epic sonic journeys.
Their skills are put to way more mature work here. These constructions are subtle and slow to evolve but carry with them such gravitas. They unfold with narrative melody and throughout their lengthy progression they become more like mini life-spans than actual songs. Where brutality was the flavor on their first record, it is merely suggested in the might of these tracks. It's in this restraint that Tarot Sport really succeeds. Opener Surf Solar employs a clipped synth melody to build tension growing fiercer with every mangled texture, while The Lisbon Maru is built around a military drum beat that threatens an onslaught but always holds back. The central song Olympians could be the soundtrack to one of Godfrey Reggio's Quatsi movies. Over the course of its near eleven minute length it could only be fitting for something this grand to accompany the evolution of the universe itself.
Tarot Sport is a seismic shift away from the first album but a conscious and meticulous one. It is a pure exploration of sound that holds the listener in mind all the way. It's a record that demonstrates an obsessive commitment to their art and one to be exceptionally proud of.