Their last wonderful album ‘The Way Things Fall’ was described by one keen observer as “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell”.
Having signed to Mute, ADULT. are back with a soon-to-be long player entitled ‘Detroit House Guests’.
As the title suggests, it is a collaborative affair based on the visual artist residency model, with each musician coming to Nicola Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller’s studio for a three week period under the premise that they all lived, worked and collaborated together.
The first track to be made public was ‘They’re Just Words’ featuring the vocals of Douglas J McCarthy, frontman of NITZER EBB and also the cousin of Perry McCarthy, the original ‘Top Gear’ Stig. A stark promo video for this slice of mechanical but strangely groovy electro sees the trio in some suitably nocturnal locations, as McCarthy and Kuperus provide a creepy call and response duet.
On ‘They’re Just Words’, Kuperus does a great deadpan take on Siouxisie Sioux, while McCarthy is in particularly good form sounding like an inebriate preacher. He also appears on a second track on the album called ‘We Are A Mirror’.
‘Detroit House Guests’ will feature collaborations with a whole host of musicians and artists including Michael Gira from SWANS, Shannon Funchess from LIGHT ASYLUM, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe aka LICHENS, Austrian thereminist Dorit Chrysler and multi-disciplinary artist Lun*na Menoh.
‘Detroit House Guests’ is released by Mute Artists in double vinyl, download and CD formats on 17th March 2017
After a hiatus between 1986 to 1995, Foxx has since been extremely prolific, dividing his time between a number of pop-oriented, ambient and soundtrack projects.
The first section of this collection is laid out chronologically, beginning with Foxx’s material recorded with Louis Gordon, his main collaborator on his comeback. ‘A Funny Thing’ from 2001’s ‘The Pleasures Of Electricity’ sounds particularly interesting in today’s context, with the jazzier, deep house inflections being quite different from how Foxx is now. But songs like 2005’s beautifully treated ‘Never Let Me Go’ confirmed that Foxx still had that inventive spark.
But it was when Foxx teamed up with synth collector extraordinaire Benge to form JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS that he became fully re-engaged in the electronic pop realm which he helped to pioneer.
Using an array of vintage synthesizers, the feisty growl of ‘Catwalk’, the serenity of ‘Interplay’ and the electro-folk of ‘Evergreen’ all possessed a mechanised charm while simultaneously providing some vital correlative warmth. The parent album ‘Interplay’ was possibly Foxx’s most complete and accessible body of work since ‘Metamatic’.
Continuing with the mathematical solution, from the swift follow-up ‘The Shape Of Things’, the fantastically motorik ‘Tides’ came over like an electronic NEU!
Meanwhile from the third Maths album ‘Evidence’, the title track in collaboration with THE SOFT MOON was a surreal slice of post-punk psychedelia, like Numan meeting Syd Barrett! But the most complete track Foxx produced in this period turned out to be the grainy, pastoral elegance of ‘Evangeline’ with Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen.
The main act of ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ concludes with two previously unreleased songs by JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS; both are highly worthy inclusions. ‘A Many Splendoured Thing’ features pristine pulsing sonics with crisp percussive taps a la ‘The Man Machine’; it’s Foxx goes to Kling Klang.
But ‘A Man And A Woman’ throws in a less rigid formula with some loose, hand played electronic percussion and the enchanting voice of Hannah Peel. It’s an interesting departure that even features some subtle acoustic guitar flourishes by Isobel Malins.
Continuing on the six string theme, ‘Estrellita’ from the ‘Mirrorball’ album with COCTEAU TWINS’ Robin Guthrie appropriately provides an esoteric musical interlude, before the compilation’s appendix of assorted collaborations and remixes.
Although not a song written by Foxx, his and Benge’s serene reinterpretation of GAZELLE TWIN’s ‘Changelings’ highlighted not only the synthesized magic of the partnership, but also how the influence of Foxx was interwoven seamlessly into the Brighton-based songstress’ art.
Photo by Ed Fielding
Following JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ rework of ‘Dresden’, the reciprocal arrangement delivers a previously unreleased OMD remix of ‘The Good Shadow’. Working around its shimmering arpeggio, Paul Humphreys adds more of the beautiful Synth-Werk that made OMD’s last album ‘English Electric’ such a return to form.
Meanwhile, the ADULT. Remix of ‘The Shadow Of His Former Self’ naturally takes on a more punky, techno stance.
Originally a solo track from ‘The Shape Of Things’, ‘Talk’ has now become a collaborative platform for Foxx to explore different approaches from a singular idea with other kindred spirits; on ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’, two of these are included.
The first is the previously released ‘Talk (Beneath My Dreams)’ version with Matthew Dear; Foxx provides the cascading bass laden intro before Dear adds a steadfast four-to-the floor beat and a deep sinister voiceover, which could be mistaken for a pitch-shifted Foxx.
But the second version is a brand new, long-awaited collaboration with GARY NUMAN. Numan’s take on the track is meaty. Retitled ‘Talk (Are You Listening To Me?)’, it predictably screams alienation and fully exploits his haunting trademark overtures, courtesy of some blistering Polymoog from Benge.
The end result is like a wonderful audio mutual appreciation society.
“John Foxx has been a hero of mine for my entire adult life” said Numan, “It was a real honour to finally have the chance to contribute to one of his tracks… it was every bit as creative, unusual, demanding, and rewarding, as I always expected it to be”.
Foxx is currently in the studio working on new music. Like SPARKS, JOHN FOXX has been so prolific over the years that it can be challenging to keep up with all his releases. But as much as some of his hardcore following have expressed dismay at countless reissues and compilations, Foxx’s work is still under-appreciated, even within the more general circles of electronic pop music.
For those still not entirely convinced of Foxx’s contribution to the synthesized music world, ‘21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ acts an ideal entry point into some of his best electronically focused work since ‘Metamatic’.
With thanks to Steve Malins at Random Music Management
’21st Century: A Man, A Woman And A City’ is released by Metamatic Records as a CD and download on 27th May 2016. A limited deluxe CD+DVD edition is also available and features 11 videos filmed in Tokyo by Macoto Tezka, featuring music by JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS
After almost a year’s delay, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have finally released their debut album ‘Through The Veil’.
Combining elements of Italo Disco, Hi-NRG and Electroclash with the feisty template Of Terri Nunn’s BERLIN and the Mittel Europa romanticism of VISAGE, ELEVEN:ELEVEN deliver a melodic but edgy style of electronic dance music which doesn’t cause death by four-to-the-floor!
Fronted by the feline demure of Sicca and powered by the crisp electronic backing of Jake Childs, ELEVEN:ELEVEN have been described as the musical love child of GIORGIO MORODER and ADULT.
The duo’s debut EP ‘Infection’, with exquisite songs like ‘Infection’, showcased the subtle dynamics of their futuristic disco friendly sound influenced by the likes of producers such as Bobby Orlando as well as the man whose name is Giorgio. The original promotional concept of ‘Through The Veil’ had been to the release a track one-at-a-time before culminating in a finished ten track album but after six were premiered, things went quiet while the duo were signed to Canadian label Cliché Musique, part of Universal Music.
It comes as a big surprise though after all the delays that the whole album has been given away as a free download… but what a freebie! The songs are uncluttered, and allowed space to breathe rather than just having the kitchen sink thrown in. Punching forth at the start is ‘Escape’ which combines atmosphere, danceability and emotion for a superb opener.
Taking on a more Eurocentric countenance with a hint of A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ is ‘Essence’ although Sicca doesn’t try to attempt falsetto.
With a moodier percussive outlook, creepier synths hook-in at a steadier pace on ‘Mesmerize’ with Sicca all haunted and exclaiming “You’re toxic, mesmerise me… I waste away”; it all gives ‘Through The Veil’ a kind of sexy gothic allure.
‘The Play’ explores bondage chic, a theme often referenced in ELEVEN:ELEVEN’s artwork. Feeling the need for speed, it is more frantic than the other numbers running through the core of ‘Through The Veil’.
There’s plenty of highs and lows in its two minutes. The exploration continues on ‘The Chains’ and at four plus minutes, is the longest song on the album. Strangely, it does sound a little too long…
The synthetic seediness of ‘No Words’ is reminiscent of MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER but whereas Ms Herve would just speak, Sicca coos with a sultry allure… it actually makes a change to hear a singer on an electronic backing track like this rather than the expected deadpan monologue. Driven by an arpeggiated bassline and analogue drum machine clatter, ‘Little White Lies’ is rather divine with Sicca sounding quite seductively resigned over some great syncopation, club friendly without being overbearing.
‘Isolate’ and ‘Justified’ maintain the quality of the album and don’t veer too much away from the ‘Through The Veil’ template. But the best number comes last with the brilliantly sparkling title track which put quite simply, is just great angelic synthpop.
An impressive debut, the main noticeable trait of ‘Through The Veil’ other than its quality dance stance is that the songs are all short and sweet. There’s no unnecessary 20 inch dance mixes needed as the point can be made in less than three minutes… so DJs and dance acts, PLEASE LEARN!
At thirty-two minutes, ‘Through The Veil’ does not outstay its welcome and with its enjoyable ten variations of a theme, it showcases how there is subtle, crafted thinking within EDM from this promising electronic duo.
“Snarling electro-punk” is a good way of describing ADULT. as is “a snuff film version of Speak & Spell” which is what one keen observer said on TEC’s Facebook about their new album ‘The Way Things Fall’.
That has to be one of the quotes of the year and TEC wished it had thought of it!
The fear of the outside world and relationships, the fear of opening up your heart and it being destroyed; these sentiments have very much inspired the dystopian demeanor of ADULT.
First finding notoriety with the spiky cult favourite ‘Hand To Phone’ in 2001, Detroit based duo Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus’ last album was 2007’s ‘Why Bother?’ and for a while they didn’t. Suffering from burn out following a long world tour, they spent some time spent away from music.
But the couple reconvened to record possibly their most accessible album yet. While still retaining their distinctive edge and unsettlement, the album’s mutant love songs have a magnetic charm. This is particularly evident on the fabulous single ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’, a vibrant electro hybrid of GINA X PERFORMANCE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES.
The next single ‘Tonight, We Fall’ and its description of feelings as tangible objects that “stick to you, stick to me” is strangely heartfelt. There’s also the aggrieved resignation of ‘Nothing Lasts’ accompanied by a plethora of detuned synthesizer sounds while the haunting techno pop of ‘New Frustration’ and the pulsating ‘At The End Of It All’ are among the album’s other key tracks.
With a penchant for playing in the dark, ADULT. live shows are enjoyably detached affairs, paring their music to its barest bones. The pair chatted to The Electricity Club about their new album…
The new album is much more electronic than your last one?
NK: We made a pretty conscious effort to not use bass or guitar.
ALM: I don’t think so… one day we went in and thought “no guitar in any of these” – and we were writing so fast, we didn’t really pay attention after that.
NK: When we started writing the songs, we made a conscious effort to write songs which were more pop, more dance oriented. I think it’s because we’d had a break and the mood we were in – especially myself. At the end of making ‘Why Bother?’, I was very agitated and irritated and always p*ssed off.
ALM: It’s true.
NK: Yes, it’s definitely kinda true. I was just burnt out. For this record, I felt like I really wanted to enjoy listening to my own record. I think maybe that’s where not having the bass and guitar on there stems from – that desire to have more dance oriented tracks.
ALM: I agree with that.
Is there any kind of theme to this album, or are all the songs basically unrelated?
NK: Generally it was a lot more open. On the previous album for instance, our concepts were so specific you could literally say “this song is about this one woman and her history”. This new album was much more ambiguous, the emotions were stronger than the stories.
It’s interesting that you say the album is about fear of relationships: you have been in a relationship since the beginning of the band – is there something very personal in this album?
ALM: In a sense it’s about those kind of frustrations – that feeling where you’re so beat down, all you can do is try to figure out how to get yourself back up.
Do you both bring different qualities to the band? Do you have different strengths?
NK: I don’t know if we know the difference anymore. At this point in our lives and relationship together, it’s all so intertwined that it’s hard to separate. We’re working on a new video right now for the song ‘Tonight, We Fall’. Adam and I were building the set last night and we were like one machine, like an assembly line.
ALM: We started the band a year after we started dating. We don’t know…
NK: We don’t know how to operate any other way than making stuff together. Sometimes I think if we didn’t make stuff together, maybe we wouldn’t like each other. *laughs*
How does your live show compare to your recorded work?
NK: Basically, the songs have two levels. There is the very programmed analogue sequence type stuff and playable lines. The other half of the songs are backing tracks we create.
ALM: We translate the sound we have in the studio – where there’s a lot of vintage analogue gear, primarily – live, we travel with two newer analogue machines, and for what we can’t translate, we use a sampler. I play three keyboards on stage, Nicole sings and we have the backing machine. We’re no different to DEPECHE MODE really! *laughs*
Photo by Gavin Brick
When putting together a live show, how do you choose what to play?
NK: We’ve been a band since 1997, we have numerous 12 inch records, several albums and over 100 original songs – that’s a lot of music. We really work hard to pull things from all different eras of our sound and try to make it a cohesive, sort of hour long wave of music. We spend a lot of time considering how each song goes together, how the sequencing works and creating arcs in our set. It’s in no particular order as far as chronology goes.
ALM: We’ll ask ourselves how a song from 2000 correlates with a song we just wrote: “do they make sense together, do they sound good together?” Sometimes we’ll go back and rework a track, restructure or even re-record some older songs to sound more cohesive. It’s probably my least favourite thing about being in a band.
Do you enjoy playing live?
NK: As long as it hasn’t been a long tour, I enjoy the live experience. This is what I love about doing short tours like the one in Europe – we’re only doing 4 dates. That makes it more special, it doesn’t become a dog and pony show – which I sometimes think touring is. There’s nothing wrong with going on a tour, I’m just not that type of musician. I don’t enjoy playing one night after next after. I prefer making things as opposed to performing them.
You’re both established visual artists – does this become a part of your shows as well?
ALM: No, I think we’ve always had this standpoint for our live set that it’s music – it’s not a performance in the sense that it’s not theatre or theatrical. How elaborate it is depends on logistics: where we’re playing and the venue. We’ve had some very specific light shows, video backdrops, fog and things like that – but at some shows, we don’t have the control over that.
NK: I sometimes feel like we’re touring the whole dog and pony show. Some musicians like to incorporate dance, theatrical aspects – that’s not how we operate.
Do you connect with the crowd on stage, or prefer to stay aloof?
NK: It depends on night and mood, and if you want to reach out. Sometimes I just feel introverted and don’t want to say anything. If we could play in the dark and everyone in the room was also in the dark I think that would be ideal.
ALM: Maybe we’ll keep the lighting just at 10%. Maybe just have one flashlight. *laughs*
Would it be right to say you keep your art and music quite separate then? Has making a film given you the chance to combine the two in a way you’re comfortable with? How has it affected making the new album?
ALM: I know for myself, and I guess Nicole will agree, we both went to art school and we both do a lot of different disciplines. Nicole does photography and I’m painting: that’s what my majors were in. Making the film finally allowed us to express that in other media. Because of that, since we started writing again, our music has become more pure – there’s less baggage. It didn’t have to be six things to us; it could just be one thing. We only had one album, one specific goal: to write great music.
NK: ‘Why Bother?’ had more of a complicated narrative and we thought it had to have a single overarching concept. Whereas, this album just feels a lot more energised and free.
Earlier albums seem to have been influenced by particular writers or philosophers: JG Ballard, Philip K Dick… does this album have any particular literary or philosophical influences?
NK: Sometimes in the past, our albums were very obviously influenced by writers like Ballard and PK Dick, but not this album. We’ve been writing in a very isolated space, away from influences.
ALM: Going back to the subject of reaching the audience, I don’t want to *not* reach people. I think we suffer from a particularly artistic temperament… existential angst.
Does the writing process prove to be cathartic?
NK: Yes it’s definitely helpful. When we wrote this record, it was a frenzied-feeling writing process. We would write one song and then start immediately on another. In the end you felt like it was never ending and had to say “that’s enough, shut it off”.
How do you write as a partnership – is it a democratic creative relationship?
ALM: It’s different with every record. We can easily comment on the new record.
NK: This was definitely a very democratic process. We generally agree on stuff, although not always, that’s for sure – sometimes we each had to fight for what we wanted.
One good practice we have is that if a track is not coming together quickly, we’ll leave each other for periods of time in the studio. Then we can each have a go at trying to figure it out.
ALM: This does two things – it lets you try embarrassing, stupid things; let’s you fail a lot without someone listening, going “that’s terrible”. Secondly, you then have an objective second person who you can show things. If you’ve been working on a bassline for three hours and you start to become really delusional, it’s great to have someone else going “it’s good” or “no it’s crap”. We’re good at not getting offended – I think that’s from art school – you’re trained to go through the process of critique.
After making a film, why did you decide to make another album? Do you still believe in the album format?
NK: We didn’t want to make another album.
ALM: We didn’t intend to.
NK: People listen to music in a totally different context now, where you buy the song you want, so what is the importance of the album? We wrote fourteen songs and ten are on there…
ALM: …or nine. It just felt like an album. It felt like these songs had to go together for our own brains, regardless of how someone else wants to listen to them. There was a period of time where I worried a little too much about other people. When I go to iTunes, I buy albums… I don’t shuffle, I listen to them in order, and I’m glad about that. I don’t care if someone only likes one song or puts the album on shuffle – none of that. That’s their business. I think about what I’m into. I’ve always operated that way and it works for me. I figure if I like it, there’s a good chance other people might be into it as well.
Did you feel yourselves part of a scene at all when you began, when electroclash was becoming fashionable? Do you listen to what sounds are around in electronic pop now?
NK: I don’t know if we’re influenced by what’s going on.
ALM: I think we used to not be and that’s what happened to us. We got too wrapped up in how the outside world reacted. We’re much better as isolated people.
NK: I do think we work better when isolated.
ALM: We talk about what we did, and did very publically. We pushed all of our limits. We wanted to see how far north, south, east and west we could go and a few times we crossed our own limits. I have no regrets about that, how we grew as artists.
What we’re making now is a record that could only have been made with experience. We know our limits now, we’ve done all of our experimentation. We know what we like and enjoy and that’s the record we made.
NK: We’re conscious of certain things that we were unhappy with in the past – even down to playing live shows. I don’t want to burn out again.
You say you’ve finished experimenting – is there a danger you could become too comfortable and lose the desire to innovate?
ALM and NK: Yeah, that could happen.
ALM: I don’t care if I’m complacent or not.
NK: I doubt it, knowing our personalities.
ALM: We’re not going to say anything but we’ve thought about what we’ll do if we make another album.
NK: Maybe after this we won’t be in the mood to write another album – or maybe we will feel inspired. I don’t know.
ALM: We had a long meeting about what we liked and didn’t like about the music industry and made very specific outline of traps and snares not to fall into again.
NK: To operate on a certain scale in the music world doesn’t work for us.
ALM: A good example, for instance, is how we had a very clear meeting with our label Ghostly saying “don’t work with us if you expect us to do an exhausting tour for this album. Don’t put it out if that’s what you expect”. Maybe it’s not what they expect, maybe it’s expectations you put on yourself. Another example, we tried being a three piece band for one album and then stopped. We’re still all really good friends but it just wasn’t who we are. This is more like an outgrowth… like an art project – it’s ours. It doesn’t work if we bring in someone else.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to ADULT.
ADULT. hail from Detroit in the United States and this was going to be the duo’s first live performance in London for several years… thus fans were greedy to see the enigmatic Nicola Kuperus in dark, sterile vocal form with partner Adam Lee Miller on keyboards.
The gig was to showcase and promote their fifth album ‘The Way Things Fall’; the previous was prophetically titled ‘Why Bother?’ and so they didn’t for six years! However, the multi-talented couple were far from idle and have kept busy in the intermediate years indulging in their love for photography and film making.
First track tonight was their cover of 1970s LA punk band THE SCREAMERS’ ‘122 Hours of Fear’, a dark and throbbing slice of new wave, the first line inviting the audience “to be quiet or be killed”! And so the scene was set… fan favourite ‘New Object’ from the ‘Resuscitation’ collection followed – dirty, gritty electro punk. Kuperus wanted the lights turned down and the dry ice turned up – her wish was granted and so the stunning couple began to fade out of the audience’s view. Next came the brilliant ‘Heartbreak’, contagious synthpop hinting of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Big Muff’ and the first track to air from the new album. Again the plea went out for less lighting on stage until only the lights from the onstage synths were visible.
The compelling ‘Hand To Phone’ preceded the new single ‘Tonight, We Fall’ which was a haunting and powerful slice of dark electronica. Then came ‘Shari Vari’, another track from the ‘Cover(s) EP, the live version delighting with a hint to SIMPLE MINDS’ single ‘I Travel’; the track pulsated rhythmically in unison with the dry ice machine that was earning its keep big time. By now, the venue was pitch black. ADULT. appear to crave to be invisible from the audience but one wonders if the reverse is a welcome option too. Cheers went out as soon as the first notes of ‘Blank Eyed, Nose Bleed’ were recognised by the highly appreciative crowd while new album track ‘Love Lies’ provided a sombre warning of the perils of attachment.
The uncharacteristically chirpy but highly infectious ‘Idle (Second Thoughts)’had a definite Chinese flavour and ironically had a subtle nod towards Iggy and Bowie’s ‘China Girl‘, but it also highlighted Kuperus’ oft voiced vocal comparison to Siouxsie Sioux.
The sinister ‘At The End Of It All’ was followed by the punchy KRAFTWERK styled ‘XZzX’ and even the most rigid of attendees must have been animated by this great track.
Finally, ‘Nite Life’ was introduced as the band’s “disco” track but then the main set was all over far too quickly.
A hugely enjoyable oral feast, if FAD GADGET and GINA X along with the other artistes already mentioned are in your favourite record collection, then ADULT. would be a very welcome addition…
Special thanks to Debbie Ball at Create Spark
‘The Way Things Fall’is released by Ghostly International as a CD and download