1996 was a year with a plethora of visionary radiations with respect to the avantgarde Peruvian panorama as the international one.
In those years it had already fired up Crisálida Sónica movement in which I was active part. Groups like Azul en Silencio/Espira, Diosmehaviolado/Evamuss, Avalonia/Fractal, Catervas/Cíclica, etc. raised Lima of those years. We were interested in the spacey post-rocker experimentation within our avatars, but also in what was made by our contemporaries in other latitudes.
Thus we find true gems of the hidden History of the music made in 90's: Third Eye Foundation, Flowchart, Main, Labradford, Azusa Plane, Windy & Carl, Tomorrowland, Spacetime Continuum, Indicate, Stars of the Lid ... One of those delicacies was, no doubt, Bowery Electric.
The first record that reached my hands from the duo formed by Martha Schwendener and Lawrence Chandler would be at that time "Beat" (Kranky, 1996). Built by using drones, laptops, enraptured whispers and samplers, "Beat" was the perfect balance between the pseudo shoegaze of its first opus -"Bowery Electric" (Kranky, 1995)- and the trip hop that they would explore then in its swansong "Lushlife" (Beggars Banquet, 1999). In an interview that I did back in 2000, Chandler finally told me that they did not consider their debut as an attached to the canons of shoegaze. He even told me that hadn´t even heard the work of My Bloody Valentine when recording their album.
"Beat" was a fantastic shakeup for several at the avantgarde scene in Lima of the 90's. They were the boom times of Fujimori, the beginning of the internet age, cable TV, the "democratization" of technology, etc. I've always wondered if technology has become in inclusive or whether it has caught us all in its consumer/materialistic logic. In the city it was notorious that mist of bastardization of culture that "chicha" newspapers and trash tv installed to stay. A panorama replicated today by all private media. Such context forced music lovers to fall back on the music with more passion. After all we had nothing to lose, everything was already rotten and drugs -always present- helped greatly to "cleanse", to shake off the carrion.
I had read the recommendation of this artifact somewhere in the web, so when a university colleague asked me to give him a list of discs to be brought in from yankeeland, I included this of Bowery. Already with cds in Lima, in the listening sessions, I discovered a world where the minimalism of Terry Riley and LaMonte Young blended innovatively with the sound of Seefeel, Bark Psychosis and the everlasting tail of Kevin Shields and co. The result was seductive, hypnotic and carrying feeling was able to make of lethargy a redemptive blessing, a visionary event.
Songs like "Beat" -perhaps the most influencer gem of this document, light years ahead from the sound of labels like Morr Music: Tony Conrad ecstatically dancing at a rave full of drones, angels and mesmerising rhythms- or "Fear of Flying" denoted a unique personality on the scene. The percussions in hip-hop manner and markedly dub bass made mischief in our teenage brains. The lyrics of "Beat": "Words are just words, words are only noise" almost in semiotic plan, would be shocking to indie rockers then and still today, so prone to ponder a song by the weight of its lyric. This was so simple and straightforward that pierced understanding.
"Without Stopping" was another of the majestic epiphanies of the album. Built on ambient techno percussion and some glider violas with lots of reverb and delay, decanted lost paradises in the form of feedbacks. Martha Schwenderer voice's prayed a prayer to a god entranced from the beginning of times, which could only understand similar praises and cries. A high anthem of North American post-rock. Bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Explosions in the Sky are a bad joke at its side.
The disc contained not only short instrumental experiments in the manner of isolationists landscapes, sonic warrens where to put your soul wander like in purgatory -"Looped", "Under the Sun"- but also songs where acoustic drums moved their electrosonic peers courtesy of Wayne Magruder of mad Calla. By those seasons some colleagues in the local scene they were of the view that this detail gave them class/distinction to Bowery. "Inside Out" or "Coming Down" ("close your eyes we are coming down, close your eyes we are coming down"), in the voice of Lawrence Chandler, added a chemical dependent nuance to the sound of the duo. With the presence of acoustic percussions guitars glittered much more. Everything was transformed into a current of electricity that entered into your body pleasurably. Minimalism become in religion. A "doctrine" of which these new yorker musicians then abjure.
"Postscript" was the perfect coda to a strange and beautiful album like "Beat". More than a minimal space cut piece it was a declaration of principles. A manifesto. 17 eternal minutes where to float to your heart's content without worrying about anything but fly and break your mind. Burst into colors and spiritually reborn to a new music where the sound will take hold of your existence. Frequencies, textures, timbres and the most lustful frequencies passed before you, stimulating your mind and soul as nothing/nobody had done before. Metamusic they say.
I honestly believe that life without this kind of experiences is not worth living. Gone was the arty and snobbish pose, the hairdos and trendy clothes. Ditto with the usual oldish (indie) rocker sounds. Post-Rock was the most transgressive that international musical planet lived up to these days. And this in spite of the bastardization that suffered this movement by the media and industry interested in selling bait and switch scam. "Vertigo" (Beggars Banquet, 1997), the double album of remixes of Bowery Electric, confirms letter by letter what is said in these lines. A year later, in 1998, Martha and Lawrence would be responsible for (re)sign their precept as the sublime gurus they always were: "Things'll Never Be The Same" (Various - A Tribute to Spacemen 3, [Rocket Girl, 1998]). Certainly rock is already well dead. At least for the most restless and dissatisfied.
We love you masters.
Wilder Gonzales Agreda.