It’s tempting to call Adult. electroclash; the synth duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller debuted in 1998, coinciding with the style’s peak, and they’ve collaborated with notable groups in the genre such as Fischerspooner and Ladytron. But while the Detroit-based husband-and-wife team share some traits with the genre—particularly the way they pair an arty rock ’n’ roll swagger with a frenetic mechanical pulse—Adult. don’t lean into the heat and hedonism of the dance floor the way electroclash pioneers such as Goldfrapp and Peaches do. Instead they exercise a chilly restraint. Across nine albums, they’ve explored austere themes—existential wanting, capitalist alienation, the inevitability of death—with hip-thrusting rhythms that feel more spastic than sexy. (To me, spasming in the club while thinking about death is sexy—but that’s a subject for another day.)
On Adult.’s latest release, February’s Becoming Undone (Dais), they channel grief and despondency that stem not only from the pandemic but also from the decline and death of Kuperus’s father. Her vocals have always echoed the flat wails of Los Microwaves’ Meg Brazill and the sultry, reverb-drenched moans of Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti, but on this album, she unleashes more snarls and yelps, which she layers like uneven bricks on tracks such as “Fools (We Are)” and “She’s Nice Looking.” Miller’s militant bass lines and machinelike flourishes root Adult.’s music more firmly in EBM and industrial than in the postpunk and new wave that inform electroclash. Their sound is aggressive in its lack of poptimism, navigating a tight line between rapturous darkness and bouncy recklessness without getting too playful. Whatever you want to call Adult.’s music, on Becoming Undone they show their staying power lies in their ability to guide you through a ritual danse macabre.
Adult. A small number of tickets will be available at the door, but this show is otherwise sold out. Kontravoid and Spike Hellis open. Fri 5/20, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, $18, 21+