The Detroit synthpop duo tread fine line between order and chaos on a twisted, thrilling ride
Ever since the instantly iconic electroclash tune Hand To Phone, Detroit synthpop duo ADULT. have remained stubbornly recognisable. Their songs tread a fine line between order and chaos, as stiff, brittle drum machines interlock with stilted, avant-garde vocal performances. Becoming Undone delivers in spades, and at times the grooves are so robotically infectious that it feels as if Kraftwerk have been reinvented for a new age.
In a post-pandemic landscape where people have become hyperaware of and slightly repulsed by their corporeal form, Our Bodies Weren’t Wrong feels like a rather surreal rebuke (“you touch my face / I touch your face / you touch my face, I touch your face / our bodies weren’t wrong / our bodies weren’t wrong / it’s how we’ve persisted / for so long”) as a busy bass ostinato fights to be heard amongst various bangs and clangs.
Unlike some albums that frontload their best tunes and leave the filler for later, Becoming Undone seems to only grow more expansive and wild in its second half. I Am Nothing plays around with the syncopated motifs of house and techno while raspy synths scrape and drag over the top, while I, Obedient’s cultish vocal harmonies and sonic laser beams make the vast majority of mainstream techno feel positively tame by comparison.
Though that signature ADULT. style dominates the record, there are some interesting sonic detours. She’s Nice Looking gets a beguiling musique concrete intro with cavernous bass tones, blasts of feedback and pitch-shifting vocals, and Teeth Out Pt II eschews the beats for eerie ambience featuring jittery sound effects that make their mark before being frozen in piercing aspic.
Becoming Undone is a twisted, thrilling ride, at once stylish and unhinged, showing that more sophisticated production techniques haven’t taken away any of ADULT.’s edge over the years.