In these newfangled times, somebody’s bouncing behind a laptop on the headline stage of every festival, and musicians with an explicitly electronic bent have way better chances of scoring a Top 10 hit than any ol’ guitar player. But some of us remember an era when keyboards and sampled drum loops were enough to make a band — to a typical listener, at least — certifiably weird.
Destiny is a heartless bastard, so global recognition for acts like CHVRCHES and The xx has yet to foster a commercial spike for late-90z electro-pop OGs like The Faint, Ladytron, or Detroit’s ADULT. Maybe the latter outfit, which plays Great Scott in Allston this Wednesday (May 17) could use the money, but by all appearances, ADULT. remain focused on staying certifiably weird — or, more accurately, certifiably interesting — long after the passage of time just-so-happened to normalize their instruments.
And made them easier to acquire.
“There was a moment where it was kind of difficult to find the equipment,” Nicola Kuperus tells Vanyaland over the phone from the Detroit homestead she shares with ADULT.’s other half, Adam Lee Miller. “You had to search through various pawn shops and gear shops that sold secondhand vintage synthesizers. Now it’s easier to make stuff on your laptop.” Adds Miller: “Synthesizers are easier to get, and they connect to each other more easily. There’s a lot of great new gear and hardware out there. It’s easier to get and cheaper. There’s just more of it.”
But not necessarily more of the same. For instance, ADULT.’s sixth full-length Detroit House Guests, their first since 2013’s The Way Things Fall, marks not only a departure from its predecessor’s mechanical sparkle, but from the conventional, humdrum writing-recording process. Bankrolled by neither a label nor a crowdfunding scheme, Detroit House Guests arrives via a Knight Foundation community arts grant.
Years ago, Kuperus and Miller hatched the idea to invite unaffiliated musicians to collaborate on new material while living in their house for two-to-three weeks at a time. The agenda — inspired by physical artist residencies — was to get some new chefs into ADULT.’s sonic kitchen, see how a taste of domestic stability influenced creativity, and to make an album influenced by the oft-misrepresented environs of the Motor City.
As a whole, the eerily soothing Detroit House Guests — memorable for its atmospheres much more than its hooks — leans heavily toward the electro polarity of electro-pop. ADULT. meld with experimental artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe on the hypnotic, playful opener “P rts M ss ng,” which is heads to the tails of Lowe’s other contribution — a decisively less playful deep space excursion titled “This Situation.” Nitzer Ebb vocalist Douglas J McCarthy co-authors the thoroughly danceable “They’re Just Words,” while Light Asylum’s Shannon Funchess chips into the pulsating “We Chase The Sound” — a track reminiscent of an Earth-2 version of KMFDM that eschews the bluster and dystopian imagery of the KMFDM we know here on Earth-1.
“The grant guidelines were basically, ‘There are no guidelines’,” explains Kuperus. “The results of your collaboration don’t matter. All that matters is the collaboration itself. And I think that’s something that just doesn’t exist a lot these days — that freedom and time to meet other people, be vulnerable, and create new sounds. That freedom is why the record totally sounds like us, but moves all over the place.”
We can expect, at minimum, bits and pieces off Detroit House Guests to pop up throughout ADULT.’s visitation to Allston on Wednesday. We suggest stopping by for a likely overdue reminder that there’s lots upon lots more to electronic music than The Chainsmokers on one end of the spectrum, and your unemployable roommate grinding out ironic Smashmouth remixes on GarageBand on the other.
ADULT. + VOID VISION :: Wednesday, May 17 at Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave. in Allston, MA :: 9 p.m., 18-plus, $13 advance, $15 day of show :: Advance tickets :: Bowery Boston event page :: Featured ADULT. photo by N. Kuperus