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Midwest Product

Midwest Product hearkens back to the early days of New Order with languid, playful compositions that fuse old fashioned-instrumentation with newfangled electronic gizmos to create a sound you can dance to or contemplate in repose. But while the Ann Arbor trio definitely dabbles with same nostalgic synth-pop era futurism that has captured the fancy of underground rock and dance acts alike, they're not self-consciously retro and they're not about rehashing old ideas.

Instead they strive to gracefully balance an organic base of live drum beats and warm guitar licks with a fluid and eclectic palette of electronic sounds which rarely resort to the kitschy robot noises so many of their contemporaries find so compelling. There's plenty of humor in what Midwest Product does, but it's not the soul-sucking irony of the electro and new wave revival circuits; instead, their melodic instrumental pieces are marked by an agreeable whimsy that makes them instantly compelling.

The trio debuted in 2002 on the eclectic Ann Arbor electronic label Ghostly International. Their first LP, Specifics, is an engaging 50-minute hot air balloon ride through a brightly colored landscape of oxygenated indie pop melodies and busy dance rhythms. Midwest Product offers a brand new blend of digital and analog that has indisputable appeal.

Midwest Product returned a year later with the coyly titled World Series of Love (coyer still, its minimal cover art mimics the Catcher in the Rye paperback jacket design), an album which once again beautifully realizes Ghostly's stated mission to find the soul in electronic music. World Series of Love boasts effects, synths and programmed beats aplenty, but they pulse with as much life as the album's live instrumentation. Tauter and more efficient than their debut, World Series' peaks aren't quite as high, but there are plenty of fine moments, from the exhilarating dynamic arc of "Duckpond" to the shivering delicacy of "Swamp" to the live funk stabs of "Avant Poop." Midwest Product is still refining its unique brand of electro-rock fusion, but the results so far have been startling and satisfying.

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