Friday 30 September 2022

Retro Reviews: ADULT. - New - Phonies

Returning to the retro review format for the first time in a long while, this one shouldn't be as draining as the last couple I've done that focused on albums - today I'll be diving back into ADULT.'s New - Phonies, a fantastic introduction to the group and probably one of their finest works. I've been listening to a lot more EPs than albums as of late due to how much more easily accessible they are, and though this isn't billed as an EP, its cut from the same cloth. Last time I brought up this EP it was around 2016, so let's see if anything's changed between now and then.

I have a long and storied history with ADULT. - though it took me a long time to come around to doing a full deep dive into their works, but once I did they fast became some of my favourites in their genre. And that genre is a bit of a sticking point: often lumped in with Electroclash with artists like Peaches, Felix Da Housecat and others, though ADULT. much like Ladytron disagreed with that label. While there is an undenaible element of similarity in their content and execution, I have had plenty of people kick up a fuss when I've posted them under Electroclash in the past. As I've gotten older I've stopped caring as much about labels, but much like with my begruding use of 'IDM', it is very helpful to define the sound beyond just 'electro' as it's listed on Discogs. But I'll put a pin in it there, this isn't supposed to be a rant about genres, let's get into the content.

When I think of ADULT. the first thing that comes to mind is Nicola Kuperus' unique vocal delivery - often stacatto, laden with anxiety and shouty when it needs to be. New-Phonies gives a nice preview of that on the first track New Object, featuring a stop-start-stutter rendition of the title, backed up with some delicious of the era filtered verses. That's not to discount Adam Lee Miller's contributions to their productions, I end up saying that every time but it bears repeating. They perfectly compliment each other, the electronics on show here are lovely and raw, really embodying that DIY punk style that was no doubt an influence on the two. Twin that with Kuperus' slightly surreal photoshoots adorning the sleeves and you complete the duo's iconic look.

Track 2 makes it much easier to see where that electroclash comparison comes from, a suitably sultry track about phone sex. Doubly so with Nicola's decidedly disinterested vocal recalling Miss Kittin's work with The Hacker of around the same time. Coming back to this one, it's a much slower tempo than I usually associate with ADULT., but one that I think works in this context. Despite the cliches surrounding scene when it comes to deliberately smutty content, I can't think of another ADULT. track that is as explicit as this, with Kuperus' vocal breaking the monotone barrier and literally rising to a climax in the final quarter.

By far and away the highest highlight of the whole thing for me however is Hand To Phone. First track form the aptly titled Lipstick Knife side of the vinyl - A track I will admit I am supremely biased towards and has been in my collection in some form or another since the mid 00's or so. Popular enough to warrant two further spin off EPs of remixes, a reputation it has well earned - it is fantastic, definitely one of the standout tracks of that time. The remixes are good in their own way but it is the original that is the highlight. Absolutley hypnotic, it is one of the few tracks I can never seem to tire of, Kuperus' vocal on here is perfectly matched, the subtle melody to it skirts the cliché flat delivery of the time. A perfect encapsulation of the time, wonderful stuff.

Closing track Your Lies always stood out to me as a little odd in comparison to the other tracks on show. Not nesecerially in a bad way though, it's just perhaps not as dark as the other tracks, and the vocal being distant and vocoded after 3 tracks back to back of Kuperus in full effect seems a little odd. Still, I can't knock it - the way the intro layers up and gives way to the main synth riff is lovely, a really nice electro cut. Perhaps not quite as raw as some of the tracks here, or even their earleir works but I think it carries that methodology with it a little. Looking back on other times I've brought this track up I seem to always say it is maybe not the best closing track but I have to disagree with hindsight, while perhaps swapping Your Lies with Don't Talk might have been a nice sort of comedown quarter, I think the four tracks as they are make for a nice "We are ADULT." kind of release.

And that'll about wrap it up for today, I have to say this record doesn't really sound its age, which I will admit is true for a lot of releases under the Electrclash banner as they were essentially emulating the 80's anyway, but there have been some less well aged examples from the era as well. Pretty incredible for a record that's coming up on 22 years old this year in my humble opinion - these early ADULT. records might be my favourite of their output, but there's plenty to get stuck into if you're digging this kind of sound, I'd recommend jumping to the Rescusitation compilation for more, not only is it full length compared to this release but it also features some reworked versions of their earlier releases too, including a version of Hand To Phone. I'll try and be back around soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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