Hazmat | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Hazmat 

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Ypsilanti weirdo Max Cloud, now performing under the name Hazmat, makes honest-to-God outsider music--it seems like he's driven by an agonizing compulsion to squeeze out all the ideas backing up in his brain. I saw him regularly four or five years ago, when he played here more often, and he leapt from persona to persona onstage: he'd be a black magician coaxing an infernal racket out of an instrument he made from a credit-card reader, he'd spout funny-sad beat poetry out of nowhere, he'd play cracked-out street performer and blow long blasts of noise out of a flat cardboard "saxophone" equipped with some sort of contact-mike contraption. The beauty of his shows is that you get to watch the physical effects of all those synapses firing at once. He can't get through a song without interrupting himself--he'll do a knee bend that somehow makes the beat sound out of whack, or be stricken with a facial tic that seems to set him off rapping nonsense. What I've heard from him as Hazmat isn't so engaging, at least on disc: it's white-noise monotony, like sitting in the back of an airplane listening to the little muffled skips and bumps of turbulence over the drone of the engines. Only occasionally does he throw in squiggles of warbling noise, like a four-year-old on a slide whistle--a throwback to his old self. But those recordings are probably irrelevant to this show: I have a sneaking suspicion he won't act like they sound, and in fact I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't sound that way either. Hazmat plays second, after the duo of Andy Ortmann (Panicsville) and Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded), who in a shocking display of machismo will ditch their trademark synths and duel with guitars. The rest of the bill, in order, is Vigilante (featuring a member each from Panicsville and the Coughs), Oscillating Innards, and Pedestrian Deposit. Wed 8/3, 8:30 PM, Nihilist, 2255 S. Michigan, 4E, 312-567-9407, $5 suggested donation. All ages.

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