Martin Bowes has nurtured not only the fluidity of his music found in his experimentally brave group, Attrition, but have also nursed the progression of it from its early ‘80s beginnings to its present day incarnation. To be in love with your musical heritage is to guide it like a child and Martin Bowes has certainly loved Attrition.
The current Attrition release is called Something Stirs: The Beginning 1981-1983, a collection of cuts that were produced and distributed via the independently distributed underground networks that used the cassette medium as an easily accessible format. Given the post vinyl (then a dying format in its last days) portability of cassettes, they were a unique way to create music and have it move through channels that mainstream labels could never touch.
Attrition uses many elements to create stimulating music, elements that include echoes, drum programming, and a highly experimental vocal approach by Julia Waller (who should be noted as an influential fore-runner of this industrial styled, non-structured avant garde “vocals as art” work.) Combine that with Bowes’ darker vocals and the dark mechanized music makes a much stronger impact versus mainstream songs.
On this collection, Martin Bowes revisits his earliest works, having come into contact with a 4-track Portastudio, thereby making it easy to access the 4-track reels that have been kept in storage. By transferring these old songs to the PC and thereby being able to clean them up using modern tech, Bowes was able to resurrect an important part of Attrition, i.e., its birth and early years of life.
There is an interesting song tucked in to the center of this release called “”Mr Toma (I looked, but it was gone?)” This is reminiscent of tracks from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in that it uses recorded voice, in this case a diatribe on suicide, over a soundtrack of stirring electronica as in white noise. The words spoken here are jarring and have a sense of desperation and inevitability. The tune is eerily effective.
Attrition have always been musically experimental, a fact that is evident by this album. And there is much to like and appreciate here. With synthesizers playing a large role in the music and some very creative aspects to their songs, Attrition set themselves as one of the early manipulators of another realm of rock, picking apart and reassembling the components of a song, and infusing them with elements that will be seen as unconventional by all but the most adventurous of listeners. Be assured, these recordings are dark. They represent the formation of a band that has evolved to razor sharpness. And yes, there are drops of blood on those blades. Martin Bowes’ Attrition is not for everyone.
Attrition is not without precedence; there was Hoenig, Tangerine Dream, even Hawkwind, bands that etched a deeper cut into the concept of a song than others before them had. But Martin Bowes’ Attrition cuts deeper, making psychedelia a part of their repertoire. Their songs are as mechanized, heated, and un-oiled as deviant machines come to life. Attrition is for the musically brave and adventurous, the period found on this collection especially. But if you already know of Attrition, then you already know what to expect from Bowes as he continues to push the boundaries of musical art.