It’s tempting to call Adult. electroshock; the synth duo of Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller debuted in 1998, coinciding with the heyday of the style, and have collaborated with notable groups in the genre such as Fischerspooner and Ladytron. But while the Detroit-based husband-and-wife team shares some traits with the genre, notably the way they combine arty rock ‘n’ roll swagger with a frantic mechanical pulse, Adult. don’t lean into dancefloor heat and hedonism like electroclash pioneers like Goldfrapp and Peaches. Instead, they exercise cool restraint. Across nine albums, they’ve explored austere themes — existential desire, capitalist alienation, the inevitability of death — with hip-thrusting beats that feel more spastic than sexy. (To me, spasms in the club thinking of death it is sexy, but that’s a topic for another day).
The latest release from On Adult., February falling apart (Dais), they channel the pain and despondency stemming not only from the pandemic but also from the decline and death of Kuperus’ father. His voice has always echoed the flat moans of The Microwaves’ Meg Brazill and the sultry, reverb-soaked moans of Throbbing Gristle’s Cosey Fanni Tutti, but on this album, he unleashes more growls and howls, which he lays like jagged bricks on tracks such as “Fools (We Are)” and “She’s Nice Looking”. Miller’s militant basslines and mechanical flourishes root Adult’s music more firmly in EBM and industrial than in the postpunk and new wave that shape electroclash. His sound is aggressive in its lack of populism, navigating a fine line between enthusiastic darkness and bouncy recklessness without becoming too playful. Whatever you want to call the music of Adult., in falling apart show that its staying power lies in its ability to guide you through a macabre dance ritual.
Adult. There will be a small number of tickets available at the door, but this show is sold out. Kontravoid and Spike Hellis open. Fri 5/20, 10 pm, empty bottle, 1035 N. Western, $18, 21+