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Album Review

Somewhat bizarrely, Beat received a large amount of critical buzz over its supposedly groundbreaking fusion of hip-hop/techno rhythms and the band's older dream pop stylings. Anyone who had heard Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine or a fair amount of Chapterhouse's material probably had some things to say about that judgment, while in turn many dance mavens saw the band's efforts as already terribly outdated in terms of general sonic approach. Set all this aside and concentrate on enjoying Beat in and of itself, though, and the fine qualities of both group and album come through quite clearly. Bowery Electric may not be on the cutting edge, but Schwendener and Chandler aren't pretending to dwell there. The title track sets the album's tone from the start, an open-ended guitar drone from Chandler later accompanied by Schwendener's low-key bass and distanced singing matched with a crisp drum loop. Variations on this basic formula throughout Beat: slight rhythms are sometimes more prominent, sometimes buried, guitar lines are clearer here or more heavily produced there — but taken as a whole the release is quietly intoxicating. Standouts include "Fear of Flying," with a strong guitar scream/wash from Chandler and a more upfront bass/drum combination, and the thoroughly but beautifully zoned out "Black Light," which features a rare Chandler vocal and an enveloping delay-pedal-produced atmosphere. Notably, the drumming on the latter track is more in line with, say, early Pink Floyd or Slowdive rather than the loops used elsewhere. Both performers are incredibly undemonstrative throughout the album — Beat works best as something either totally concentrated on or left running as ambient music; a party record this isn't. At times Bowery Electric eschew percussion entirely, to lovely effect: "Under the Sun" is a brief but dark piece, a low bassline providing the only forward motion.


Formed: 1992 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Manhattan-based drone-rock duo Bowery Electric comprised vocalist/guitarist Lawrence Chandler, a former protégé of minimalist composer LaMonte Young, and vocalist/bassist Martha Schwendener. Originally a three-piece rounded out by a series of drummers, Bowery Electric bowed in 1994 with a double 7" on their self-owned Hi-Fidelity Recordings which helped land them on the indie label Kranky, which issued their self-titled debut LP in 1995. With 1996's Beat, the duo's swirling, chaotic sound began to...
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Beat, Bowery Electric
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