Finally available on vinyl pressing after a 20 year wait (to the day), is Bowery Electric's sophomore record - Beat. Slotting into a timeless sub-genre with the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack, the New York-based duo's avant-garde trip-hop stands the test of time and represents a sprawling range of influences.
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Let's face it, we're inundated with re-issues. 'Lost Classic' albums that have been unearthed to be given a new lease of life many years after the release date. Some good, some bad, some purely as a quick cash grabber but here we have an absolutely essential re-issue. On this album the New York based duo superbly matched trip-hop influenced beats to shoegaze to create a superbly evocative work that is unique and innovative right from the get go.
From the two chord PIL meets Portishead drone of opener 'Beat' the duo create a liquid blend of seemingly disparate sounds that paves the way for 'Empty Words', which is surely something like what Kevin Shields would have come up with had he continued making music into the '90s -- and messed about with beats. Similarly the guitar textures of 'Fear of Flying' will be of interest to every My Bloody Valentine fan under the sun. Unlike many modern day bands influenced MBV, Bowery Electric concentrate on the more out there cerebral side of the band and wallow in the experimental using big walloping beats and dub inflected bass lines to create vast pulsating soundscapes.
There's another key influence here that could be overlooked - Low. By the time this was released in 1996 Bowery Electric must have heard the early albums by the Duluth masters and their influence is felt keenly on 'Black Light' and 'Coming Down' yet Bowery Electric slathered their sound with the sort discordant guitars and sonic spree that was alien to Low until much later in their career.
If the key reference points are Low, Massive Attack and My Bloody Valentine (and I'd probably add in La Bradford to that) then you'd expect a great album. And yes: this is utterly superb. God knows what I was doing in 1996 that was so important that I missed out first time round but this re-issue has allowed me chance to re-assess this masterful album and I hope you will too.
9/10 Stephen Customer review, 18th October 2016
I love this album. I bought it way back when after reading a glowing review in Melody Maker. It got a tiny paragraph, almost hidden among the Britpop nonsense that was rife at the time.
You can’t help but relax to this, but it does have some unsettling moments. The title track which opens the album gently swells and swoons as its beat fades in and out with a lush synth drone underneath. The vocal low in the mix adds to the feeling of complete bliss the album envelops you in. Then “Under The Sun” provides the first bit of menace with a bass guitar that sounds like a Steve Albini band. The soporific drone of near 17-minute epic “Postscript” lulls you back in for a sleepy hug before “Low Density” leaves you slightly unnerved with a sense of foreboding from its thick, low drone.
Elsewhere “Empty Words” and “Fear of Flying” come across like a low-key version of My Bloody Valentine. “Black Light” is also feedback-drenched, but it’s not so much the feedback you notice as much as the ethereal ambience. “Inside Out” with its slow, sludgy groove, fragmented guitar arpeggios and volume swells stands out, along with the title track as being the album’s best moments.
I haven’t heard much else by them, but what I have heard doesn’t sound like this. This isn’t so much Portishead and Massive Attack as mentioned in the description, it’s out there on its own: a masterpiece to lie down to, post-rock meets ambient electronic, I guess.
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- Beat by Bowery Electric
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