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Adult. - D.U.M.E.

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Artist: Adult.

Album: D.U.M.E.

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: May. 4, 2005

Is Adult. a rock band yet? After a start in the ’90s as a stark electro duo, they steadily dropped 12” records into the semi-anonymous world of techno. But beginning with 2003's Anxiety Always full-length, they've taken babysteps toward rock-star status. The album straddled the two genres: a vinyl version was stretched across two 12”s, kicking off with the brilliant and stilted ringer, “Glue Your Eyelids Together,” while the CD included different tracks and smoother sequencing. Their last single was a split with garage rock overlords The Dirtbombs and found them embalming a rock riff into a forbidding synth whine.

With the D.U.M.E. EP, they've upped the reverb a little bit more, and murky basslines swamp the glitched beats. A couple of the songs are driven by gnawing minimalist guitar, like Keith Levine's work in Public Image Ltd.. Singer Nicola Kuperus drops her glassy robot voice and taunts like Siouxsie Sioux. Dance music isn't supposed to cause motion sickness. Or come with a lyric sheet. Even Kuperus' cover art, a crow and skull juxtaposed with plywood, plays both sides – a combo of her earlier sterile photography and Gothic imagery.

The title track is the strongest of the six here, a whipping slow march that mixes scratching noise and a watery bass lead. The vocals are a queasy melody that keeps circling, landing momentarily with annoyed squeals. It's also the track that's got the most distinct lyrical hook.

While the songs here are shorter than previous efforts, they aren't all as focused. The opener seems like the extended part of a remix, all door spring accents and drum machine hand-claps. It never adds up to the complete song it keeps hinting at. Better, and closer to their all-electronic roots, is an instrumental that nags and purrs like Throbbing Gristle.

“The End” pushes the rock vibe the hardest. The bassline is pure Thatcher-era dole queue dub, a string of three notes that fight against finding a groove. When the guitar elements fade, a dripping synth can be discerned, but the song is more no wave than death disco.

Adult. doesn't make their music easy to swallow, and some of the tracks here don't feel fully developed. But this is a band in transition, exchanging the spacious rhythms of their electro for a suffocating spin on rock revivalism. Holding a pillow over someone's face is one way to get a body moving.

By Ben Donnelly

Other Reviews of Adult.

Anxiety Always

Why Bother?

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