Midwest Product | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Ann Arbor trio Midwest Product puts an electronic twist on the standard-issue three-piece rock band. It's a familiar enough gesture on paper, and in the air it gets even more familiar. On "Still Love in the Midwest," which opens Specifics, the group's 2002 debut for Ghostly International, the insistent synth programming, busy bass line, electronic hand claps, and plangent guitar suggest that what there's still love for in this midwest is mid-80s New Order. Ditto the serrated Brit-rock guitars, lovingly cheesy electro-toms, jazzy drum fills, and willowy synth programming of "Reminder," which also hint at Tortoise circa TNT. Only one song, "Pigeons," has vocals (by guitarist Ben Mullins), but they're so heavily vocodered they function as just more instrumental texture. What's unusual about Midwest Product is that, unlike many bands who straddle live and laptop approaches, their main strength is in their real-time instrumental work rather than in their programming. Chad Pratt is a hard-hitting drummer who knows how to set a groove and embellish it, and when he's replaced, as on the serene, all-electronic "Alternator," you find yourself missing him. Thursday, June 12, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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