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After plaudits for the future-quest innovation of 1997's Beat, Bowery Electric return with a solidly enjoyable third album--and a rather pleasingly commercial one, too, odd as it sounds to accuse such dreamily, drone-ily beat-ridden songs of pleasing more than three specialist collectors at a time. In fact, given more of the lifestyle-soundtrack exposure that the cool, coiled narrative of "Freedom Fighter" has been collecting, Lushlife will be on the way to breeding the perfect hybrid of Belle and Sebastian's frailly tentative introspection, Stereolab's math-meets-Braziliana, Portishead's dark depthlessness, Morcheeba's sweetness and light and post-rock's meticulous sonic mapping. Woven from Martha Schwendener's listlessly lovely voice and seemingly faux-naif lyrics and Lawrence Chandler's wide sonic palette, there is little here that is new to anyone who's heard a Massive Attack album, a Badalamenti soundtrack, or who remembers the Eighties of spoken word samples ("After Landing") and ubiquitous beats ("Saved"). Still, when "Floating World" creates such an intentful air of expectation not dispelled until a shimmeringly abstract "Passages" offers up hum, drum and bass in conclusion, there is much to be said for a record that's as warm and welcoming to rabid fans of their former label Kranky as it is to everybody who has never even heard of God speed You Black Emperor!. --Jennifer Nine
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There are few CDs that, purely by sound, can transport you to a place...but Lushlife accomplishes that quite easily. The somber strings and cold programmed beats give the listener a simultaneously lonely yet claustrophobic feeling, like being lost in the center of a large, unfamiliar city late at night. Guitars and synth pads drift in and out, Martha Schwedener's vocals meander over the top, and you can almost feel yourself in the damp, cluttered studio in the center of New York at night where the album was recorded.
No one will ever accuse Bowery of being overly technically proficient with their instruments or song structures...and save for a few diversions here and there (distorted guitars on "Freedom Fighter", jungle beats at the end of "Passages") the song structures on Lushlife follow a familiar theme. The droning guitars have been replaced by ambient synth noises and lush string sections, augmented by the occasional guitar or record scratch. Martha's vocals remain cold and hazy, but are much more forward in the mix than in previous releases. Additionally, the tracks on Lushlife are much more song-oriented, rather than jam oriented, giving the album a more cohesive feel.
If you are not a fan of thedrone/space rock genre, this album is not for you. If, however, you are partial to the darker, hazy, ambient textures of ethereal rock, this album presents a sound and feeling like few others I have ever encountered.