There’s a lot to feel frustrated by at the moment, as the world endures the COVID-19 pandemic. While staying at home is necessary towards curbing the spread of this virus, for many the anxiety that self-isolation brings hangs heavy. For Detroit electronic duo Adult., that cabin fever has been compounded by the fact that their May tour dates in support of new album Perception is/as/of Deception have been postponed indefinitely. Despite the uncertainty of the times, they’ve found a cathartic way to cope with quarantine— by building their own smash-ready Anger Room.
As explained in a recent interview, Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus have a stockpile of 2x4s, drywall, and other building supplies on hand at home, owing to their visual arts installation work (The pair recently opened their ‘The One Who Looks, Looks Upon the One Who Looks Upon the One Who Looks Upon’ exhibition at a gallery in Memphis). Unfortunately, a video shoot for Perception single “Total Total Damage” was called off last month when they learned their choreographer had been infected with the coronavirus (she’s thankfully recovering, according to Adult.). After scrapping their initial plans, the band opted to build a video set at home—and then they tore that fucker to the ground. Scored by the song’s throbbing, terror-striking groove, the video finds both members vigorously slamming a duct-taped sledgehammer through the walls, leaving the structure in shambles by song’s end. Total damage, indeed.
Now 22 years into their recording career, Adult. have re-emerged with arguably their most aggressive record yet. Throughout, Perception traffics in punishing digital beats and uncomfortably oscillated blankets of synths. Adult. apparently wrote the record in a windowless basement in order to “deprive their senses, question their perceptions, and witness the resulting ramifications.” Isolation therapy float tanks have been commended for giving patients a newfound calmness and clarity; immersing themselves inside a dank and darkened basement may have stoked Adult.’s creative drive, but it pushed them into especially murky waters.
Second Nature is an early standout filled with panicked pulsations, nauseating synth screeches, and a disquieting melody. Why Always Why thrives off of chaotically ping-ponging synths, sheet metal-rattling digi-beats, and Kuperus’ sneering anti-corporate sloganeering (“consuming doesn’t make you exist”). Total Total Damage, of course, delivers on its titular promise. Perception is at its best while presenting these kinds of monstrous, maximalist EBM arrangements.
The high tension stakes, however, are somewhat dulled the further Perception goes along. Have I Started at the End is a seasick exploration of distorted house; Controlled By begins with an ominous drop that sounds something like Hans Zimmer’s iconic Inception horn, but ultimately bumps into a lean, if meandering, stomp-out. Despite Kuperus’ calls to bring things back to their “original form” on closer Untroubled Mind, the track is a fairly static finale, which is a shame. As proved by their latest music video, Adult. are a force to be reckoned with once they start tearing down their walls.
review by Gregory Adams
Perception is/as/of Deception by Adult comes out on April 10, via Dias Records