It's been almost four years since the release of Tarot Sport, but Fuck Buttons haven't been out of the spotlight for anywhere close to that long. First came the side-projects - Benjamin Powers struck out on his own as Blanck Mass, an album which hinted at the next FB record, whenever it came out, being a different beast to its predecessor. That's exactly what's happened. Then came having 'Surf Solar' and 'Olympians' featured during the opening ceremony of last year's Olympics. With a track named 'Olympians' in their catalogue, it seemed like a match made in heaven, but the knock-on effect of this exposure meant that the duo (completed by Andrew Hung) had been thrust in front of an ever-swelling audience.

Not bad for a band whose name is butchered on the radio for the sake of decency; when the singles from Tarot Sport started to gain traction, they were presented under the 'F Buttons' moniker. Rather than spend four years out of the spotlight, the band have spent the guts of the past year very much in it, which means that their all-important third album, Slow Focus has been subjected to considerable amounts of hype.

All the pre-release buzz is warranted. The record takes things in a noticeably different direction for the duo, in line with comments they made about their creative process several years ago ("We just want to keep being content and surprising ourselves") - they could have capitalised on the extra attention and made a noise-pop album in their own way, but they have instead gone down a darker path. They've been praised in the past for 'sounding like the end of the world', but while Tarot Sport was abuzz with euphoria, its successor is more contemplative, sometimes even pessimistic. Such things would have seemed alien to the duo four years ago, but they manage to pull it off with aplomb.

'Brainfreeze' kicks things off with thudding drums and a squalling synth line, venturing into somewhat murkier territory than before, driving its main melody into the ground before taking a detour and starting to build things back up. The record is such a full-on listening experience that even the quieter moments are filled with a sense of dread. Melody is the order of the day, and the duo are armed with several potential singles, but in contrast to the cathartic build-and-release structure of previous material, sometimes the expected payoff never arrives.

Just when you expect 'Year of the Dog' to cut loose, it fades away and allows its swirling sonics to set up the next track in a somewhat disorienting fashion. Chosen as the lead single from the album (and truncated in a confusing manner, 'The Red Wing' makes a lot more sense in the context of the record, stretching out over eight glorious minutes, throwing some hip-hop influence into the mix (as if it wasn't busy enough already) with its lumbering beat, one which sounds as though it's fighting tooth and nail not to be beaten into submission by the angry-sounding synths. It's presented as a calmer moment which manages to keep the underlying tension at bay for as long as possible before, despite its best efforts, the calmness is unable to hold on and is swept away amidst searing, raging noise.

This intensity is presented elsewhere in different forms, too. The anxious-sounding syncopation that drives 'Sentients' gives way to a space-age vocoder, used more as a conventional instrumental than anything else, as screeching feedback builds around it, the right channel of the stereo field kept occupied by fast-moving percussion before a dramatic organ line enters and threatens to swallow the whole thing up.

If, from here, the album were to run straight on to its closing tracks - which occupy 20 minutes between them - it'd push past being intense and move into flat-out exhausting territory, but 'Prince's Prize', which shows off a little more of a hip-hop bent, is the four-minute palate-cleanser before the twin behemoths that close the album. 'Stalker' is a bundle of contradictions: it's the most serene-sounding track on the album, but is driven by the sort of restless energy which renders it anything but calming, the gradual swell of its melody keeping the listener on edge before it explodes in a moment of catharsis, the buzzing synths becoming sharp enough to slice through the entire bottom end of the track, which they eventually do in a moment of pure, undiluted power, dropping out to leave the track sounding dishevelled and spent, on a gradual comedown from the album's emotional and sonic high point.

'Hidden XS' wraps things up with a flourish, its cinematic style and cascading hook the closest the band get to emulating the sound of Tarot Sport, its percussive prowess giving the album closer the sort of punch it needs, closing the album in fine style, as well as on an unexpectedly euphoric high, which isn't bad going for an album that can sometimes sound genuinely oppressive. The band have said that their new record "almost feels like the moment your eyes take to readjust when waking, and realising you're in a very unusual and not a particularly welcoming place."

The world of Slow Focus may be an unwelcoming and unusual one, but it's one which Fuck Buttons have learned to make their own. The album spent more than twice as long in gestation when compared to the 19-month gap between debut Street Horrrsing and its follow-up, but it was most definitely worth the wait. The duo have put together a wonderful album on which they manage to take most of the electronic world to task. Letting the darkness in was a great move - their latest opus is far from the triumphant feel of their previous work, but it sounds like a triumph in plenty of other ways.