Throughout their 25 year history, acclaimed Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have a sprawling catalog of material released through Mute Records, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man Records and a list of other labels that has seen the duo obscure and blur lines between genres and styles in a cohesive fashion in the album format.
“but for this we wanted something that’s falling apart.” Becoming Undone, ADULT.’s ninth album reportedly sees the duo explicitly aiming for that goal, while simultaneously rejecting and reflecting the planetary discord that inspired and informed it. Written between November 2020 and April 2021, Miller and Kuperus kickstarted the creative process through additions to the rig: a vocal loop pedal for Kuperus and Roland percussion pads for Miller. They also reconnected with some of their earliest influences including Test Department and Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which helped spark a series of fruitful and frenetic sessions, centered on themes of impermanence and dissonance. “We weren’t interested in melody or harmony since we didn’t see the world having that,” ADULT.’s Miller bluntly reasons.
While there are still plenty of the dance floor bangers the duo is known for, Becoming Undone is also informed by deep, personal loss: Kuperus’ father died during the height of the pandemic, just before the duo were about to start working on the album. As his hospice caretakers, she and Miller faced the banality finality, surrounded by objects drained of meaning — “the joy of having a body, but also the drudgery of having one,” they say.
The end result is an album that crackles with revulsion and dissent, and it seemingly equal parts exorcism and denunciation, centered around a breadth of vocal effects: Kuperus at times sounds alternately indignant and possessed, decrying the crimes, fears, and failings of a deluded, broken world. “Humans have always been pretty terrible,” Kuperus explains. “But every year the compromises of culture just accelerate.”
“Fools (We Are . . . ) is a glitchy and uneasy bit of EBM centered around stuttering beats, dense layers of arpeggiated synths paired with an unhinged and desperate vocal performance by Kuperus, who sings lyrics describing the sensation of being stuck in a seemingly endless and foolish loop of the same ol’ things while everything around them falls apart.
The recently released, self-created video for “Fools (We Are)” is a surrealist fever dream featuring a clown in a bathroom. Initially mischievous, we see the clown playing with the toilet paper and sanitary toilet seat covers, before she daintily pretends to use the toilet. The video turns increasingly surreal when the clown goes through the repetitive actions of having to use the bathroom — with all the toilets backing up and overflowing. It’s a menacing and unpleasant nightmare.
The video’s concept can trace its origins to an idea to combine Kuperus’s recurring performance of the clown/fool theme and a series of drawings that Miller had always waned to turn into a sculptural installation — The Golden Fountains. “Inspiration came from performances by Paul McCarthy’s ‘Painter’ to Bruce Nauman’s ‘Clown Torture.’ The sculptural work of Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ to Robert Gober’s ‘Two urinals (in 2 parts),’ and the album artwork of Fad Gadget’s ‘Incontinent.’” The duo explain. “The toilet is a universal motif, a shared human situation or in some cases shituation. We are all fools in one way or another, from war to waste to societal trends in ridiculous human behavior.”