Bowery Electric - Lushlife - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Bowery Electric - Lushlife

by Sean Hewson Rating:9 Release Date:2019-02-01
Bowery Electric - Lushlife
Bowery Electric - Lushlife

Lushlife, originally released in 2000, was the third (and final) album from Lawrence Chandler and Martha Schwendener. Their first, Bowery Electric, was stunning (like the work of Belong with sweet tunes and vocals). Beat showed an improvement in programming and production, but I missed the murk of the debut. I had never heard Lushlife until now.

What sounds like a small storm ushers in Floating World, before a Hip-Hop beat, strings and sampled sounds kick in, along with Martha Schwendener’s assured vocal. It is very much of its time but it’s also great. Sure, there’s a lot of Trip-Hop in there, but there’s also a lot of Post-Rock and cinematic sounds that actually bring it closer to Bark Psychosis, Seefeel or Pygmalion by Slowdive. It’s graceful and elegiac. The title track takes its time to start off and has a stuttering Film Jazz feel to it, then warm strings come in and, finally, the Hip-Hop beat. There is also a very smoky, repetitive bass-line, like something that Colin Greenwood would come up with. The late-night, urban (small U) feel of it makes me think of Burial. There is also a bit of Massive Attack about it for the same reasons. It wouldn’t be out of place on Luther. Shook Ones gets underway a bit quicker with a combination of murky sounds, clear beats and vocals, and little touches of guitar. The beat is a little loud on this track, slightly over-powering some of the track’s subtleties.  The beat is easier on Psalms Of Survival and works in tandem with a repetitive sample. Schwendener’s vocal is a little smokier here and is left to stand alone with washes of low strings occasionally coming in. Soul City has a lovely skipping beat and another top class bass line (both Schwendener and Chandler play bass on the album). It is an instrumental track and serves as something of an interlude before the single, Freedom Fighter. Freedom Fighter has an immediate feel to the beat and melody whilst retaining the murky samples of the other tracks. Saved comes in with a beat that is quite close to the Funky Drummer. The feel is entirely different of course. To the already established sound palette is added squelching synth sounds and noisy guitar. If anything Saved has a more immediate tune than the two singles (the title track being the other one). Deep Blue starts with some nice call and response between strings and sampler and slowly unfolds into a lovely instrumental that sets us up for the last two songs. Some spoken word samples start After Landing. This time a nagging little guitar figure holds the track together with Schwendener’s vocal. Passages is the final track on the album. It begins with some Ambient sounds before the beat comes in along with a bit more 60s spy guitar (there are Portishead touches on this album, of course). The vocal is subdued and is backed by soft synth pads. The production and arrangement is messed with a bit more on this song with the beats slowed down and sped up and washes being put over all the recorded tracks. It fades out on a Drum and Bass rhythm.

This is a great album. I would put Lushlife alongside mid-to-late 90s work by Slowdive, Seefeel and Bark Psychosis. It combines Trip-Hop, Hip-Hop, Jazz and Soundtrack music with more left-field influences such as Shoegaze, Post-Rock, and Krautrock. It works as a period piece but is also a good headphones album, regardless of setting. I recommend it to all fans of Bowery Electric and of the genres and bands mentioned above.

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