Rising to prominence as ADULT. during New York’s electroclash movement of the early 2000s, Kuperus and Miller began working on what would later become their ninth full-length album, Becoming Undone, shortly after the start of the pandemic. The album manifested from their collective experience of social isolation as well as the passing of Kuperus’ father that same year. This inspired a visceral edge to the band’s sound, exchanging many of the crowd-pleasing dance tracks and tongue-in-cheek humor with some morbid atmospheric cuts backed by minimal beats.
To darken their sound, ADULT. experimented with loop pedals. On tracks like “She’s Nice Looking” and the closer “Teeth Out Pt. II”, the vocals build as they repeat various phrases and slogans surrounding the tracks’ unsettling themes. The former portrays how people obsess over women’s appearances and the shallowness it displays, while the latter strips out the group’s typical drum machines in favor of an ambient soundscape that is more akin to a horror film score over Kuperus’ haunting vocals.
However, the band doesn’t completely abandon the signature sound that garnered their cult following. The opener “Undoing / Undone” combines Kuperus’ chant-like delivery of “our compulsion is our destruction,” with frantic synths and metallic drum machine clangs. The first single of the album, “Fools (We Are…)” is a glitchy dance cut that serves as one of the brief moments of levity in the tracklist. The song is the antithesis of self-seriousness with its music video using toilets as a motif of a shared human experience – after all, we are all fools in one way or another.
“Normative Sludge” is the first departure from the duo’s usual bouncing rhythms, with the track more aligned with the experimental slow build ups of their 2017 album Detroit House Guests. The lyrical repetition and cycling instrumentals perhaps suggest that society now considers the smell of “sludge” acceptable after the many disasters that have occurred since the pandemic started. However, not all of ADULT.’s risks pay off. The aforementioned closer “Teeth Out Pt. II” is anticlimactic as Kuperus’ cries get bogged down in the track’s eerie atmosphere, making the song feel dragged out for too long. Other tracks such as “I, Obedient” become repetitive, especially with their recurrent lyrics of the song’s title.
Despite these few missteps and pacing issues, ADULT. prove that they can effectively balance their usual techno and synth punk sound with more experimental and spacious beats that progress rather patiently. Veterans Kuperus and Miller further their legacy by diversifying their sound even this late into their careers while still challenging an ever-deteriorating world.