Bowery Electric

Cover Image

Bowery Electric - Bowery Electric

August 16, 1995

US LP/CD Kranky KRANK007

side a

  1. Sounds in Motion
  2. Next to Nothing - [MP3]
  3. Long Way Down
  4. Another Road
  5. Over and Over

side b

  1. Deep Sky Objects - [MP3]
  2. Slow Thrills - [MP2]
  3. Out of Phase
  4. Drift Away - [MP3]

Lawrence Chandler - guitar and vocals
Martha Schwendener - bass and vocals
Michael Johngren - drums

recorded with Michael Deming at Studio 45, Hartford
mixzed by Rich Costley and Bowery Electric at Looking Glass, New York
produced by Bowery Electric

Debut full-length from NY trio that play a monotonous, heavy-fuzz edition of slightly glazed rock.

Shoegaze balances control and chaos; the noise of an electric guitar feeding back always feels like it could explode at any moment and in a fit of atonal noise, but the right performer knows how to steer the din where the music needs it to go. Bowery Electric, a New York City-based rock band formed by Lawrence Chandler and Martha Schwendener, favored a kind of steely precision. Though the guitars on their 1995 self-titled debut are plenty loud and heavy, the music also has a cool distance to it, a tension that is always bubbling under but never fully explodes. This design-heavy approach meant that they'd later be quite comfortable in the world of head-nodding trip-hop. Their 1996 album, Beat, is almost as good as their debut, incorporating then-trendy breakbeats in an organic way, while their 2000 swan song Lushlife finds them trying too hard to be fashionable, sounding like a demo reel for commercial synch opportunities. The debut was the perfect realization of their aesthetic, each word and chord tuned and focused for maximum impact. - Mark Richardson, Pitchfork

Bowery Electric's self-titled debut is one of several albums that made the Kranky label so exciting and prescient in the mid-'90s. Sold short due to being one of the original inspirations for English rock critic extraordinaire Simon Reynolds to coin the term "post rock" (as leaders of a "distinctly American" stripe of the subgenre), the record does much to bring the then-limping shoegaze approach into the middle of the decade with some dignity. Bowery Electric should also be credited with adding some sex appeal, along with sonic muscle, to the usually dorky hirsute reinterpretation of '70s space-rock/Krautrock that were flourishing at the time. The band was essentially a duo consisting of Lawrence Chandler, who had studied under minimalist composer LaMonte Young, and vocalist/bassist Martha Schwendener. This album's slow-building, mid-tempo track all feature a live drummer (the only B.E. album to do so), and a foreboding eeriness punctuates the entire record. "Slow Thrills" and the opening "Sounds In Motion" followed by "Next To Nothing" exemplify the best-with-less dynamics and quiet-to-propulsive-to-lumbering structures that Bowery Electric would abandon for a different approach on its sophomore effort, the appropriately titled Beat (1996, Kranky). - Andrew Earles, Gimme Indie Rock

Where some bands pummel you over the head with gristly guitar leads and beefy bass lines, bands like NYC's Bowery Electric take an opposite tack, wielding their instruments with great subtlety but still extracting great power from them. On its debut long-player, the trio works with repetition and swooning melodies, building songs as if they were kids making grandiose art projects out of gooey papier-mâché Like Loop, Bowery Electric subjects all the songs' other intriguing elements-low-in-the-mix vocals, suggestive guitar noises-to hypnotic rhythms, which rock gently back and forth. While at first the album threatens to bleed quietly into space, merging with the elements in the air, "Next To Nothing," its second track, quickly sets things straight with seven and a half minutes of activity-listening to its gentle pulses and enveloping melodies is sort of akin to spinning around on amusement park swings until you're just about queasy, but still loving every minute of it. The next seven tracks hold that pattern with minimal dips and rises, "Long Way Down" echoing a downward gravitational pull, "Deep Sky Objects" propelling the mood back upwards with circular vigor. To fully immerse yourself in Bowery Electric, dive into the 10-minute "Slow Thrills," which casually lulls you into a relaxed slumber before volume levels rise to a new steady high. - Lydia Anderson, CMJ

Bowery Electric's debut full-length album is a droning, atmospheric affair. Guitars, drums, and hushed vocals suggest a definite Slowdive influence, but Bowery Electric approaches the shoegazer sound with more moodiness, tension, and space rock ethics. "Next to Nothing" and "Long Way Down" almost sound like Just for a Day-era Slowdive letting off steam; the distorted guitars and gentle drums of both tracks never sound lush, as there's an undercurrent of confusion and discomfort in the way the instruments mix. The music brings to mind imagery of rainy days or starless nights. There's not really a stab at traditional song structure with any of the tracks. "Another Road" sees vocalist Martha Schwendener nearly speaking her vocals, and she sounds quite caught up in the dreamy music that surrounds her. Neither Schwendener nor Lawrence Chandler seem to care if their vocals are audible or understood; their voices simply become additional instruments, as is common with shoegazer music. There are ample pace changes to be found throughout the album's nine tracks. "Over and Over" is a slow-burning, quiet number, which is immediately followed by the tense, dark "Deep Sky Objects." "Deep Sky Objects" sounds more than a bit like a Joy Division song, if not for the dreamy, processed vocals. Bowery Electric works equally well with short, moody song fragments (on "Sounds in Motion" and "Over and Over") as with grand, drawn-out movements (on "Next to Nothing" and "Slow Thrills"). "Drift Away" is an ambient joy. It's quite an achievement that the album, at over 50 minutes, never gets boring or even less than compelling, even though there's not much variation in mood from track to track and within individual songs. Despite the fact that the band is the sum of its influences, the album is quite fresh and interesting throughout. Bowery Electric is an extremely accomplished, beautifully moody debut. - Tim DiGravina, All Music Guide