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A surreal nightmareish journey into the mind of a Victorian serial killer from this darkAmbient pioneer. Mary Ann Cotton was Britain's greatest female mass murderer. Poisoning upwards of 20 of her own children and partenrs with arsenic. She was arrested, tried and hanged in 1873. Attrition's Martin Bowes is a descendant of the arresting officer, Police Sergeant Tom McCutcheon.
Completed on Oct. 31, 2007, this is no ordinary Halloween album; Mary Ann Cotton's story (augmented by the real-life connection between the album's composer and the killer herself) will do a much better job keeping you up at night than any slasher film killer or long-haired Japanese ghost child. The music is a haunting brew of electronic soundscapes, neo-classical strings, and eerie children's voices. Shuffling sounds, anxiously scraped strings and electronic drones create the mood, while ex-Courtney Love band violinist Emilie Autumn conjures up a momentary sense of pity for the condemned killer with her sorrowful vocal rendition on the album's climax, a submersive darkAmbient gem which incorporates the hymn "Rock of Ages."
All mine enemys whispers features Ned Kirby of Stromkern, Erica Mulkey of Unwoman and Rasputina, and Laurie Reade of High Blue Star and Pigface.
"As subtly chilling a thing as you'll ever hear. If you're brave, you can listen to All mine enemys whispers in the dark, but you might want to pull the covers over your head just to be on the safe side." - REGEN magazine, USA
"Pushing the boundaries of dark ambient and neo-classical..." - Justin Mitchell/Cold Spring records
Waren in der Laufbahn von Attrition viele Alben auch durchaus von Schönheit und manchmal auch von Tanzbarkeit mitbestimmt, so ist es diesmal wieder eindeutig die ambiente Seite von Attrition, die in den Vordergrund gerät. Düstere Klangsphären entstehen, bauen sich auf, werden durch verstörende Geräusche untermauert und bewegen sich eindeutig jenseits dessen, was man gemeinhin als das Songformat bezeichnet. Geflüsterte Samples, die gerade dadurch so verstörend wirken, dass man sie nicht wirklich versteht sowie auch Horror-Atmosphäre aufbauende Piano-Melodien, die unerwartet auf einmal in Stücken begegnen, machen die Verwirrung perfekt. Es entsteht Dark Ambient, der innovativ wirkt und nur schwer zu berechnen ist.
Ein Aspekt, der bei Attrition so gut wie nie wegzudenken war: Streicher. Diese kommen auch auf All mine enemys whispers nicht zu kurz, was beispielsweise der Cello-Einsatz wie in The Burial Club zeigt. Zu den düster-ambienten Klangsphären gesellt sich hier deutlich vernehmbar ein Cello, das Harmonien spielt, die sowohl für Schönheit als auch für Verstörung sorgen und somit für klangliche Ambivalenz sorgt. Und wenn man von Streichern redet, darf man vor allem den Titel The Gates Of Eternity nicht vergessen, denn in diesem über zehn Minuten andauernden Titel, der sich aus zwei Akten zusammensetzt, steuert Emilie Autumn perfekt ihr Violinenspiel hinzu und macht den Titel zu einem Highlight, das sowohl durch seine eigene Dramaturgie als auch durch die Dramaturgie im Gesamten des Albums besticht.
Sicherlich hat Martin Bowes mit dem neuen Attrition-Werk weder sich noch den Dark Ambient neu erfunden, aber das ist auf diesem Album auch gar nicht nötig und wäre auch vermessen gewesen, zu erwarten. Was Attrition auszeichnet und was auch dieses Werk manifestiert, ist eine faszinierende Beständigkeit – nach so vielen Jahren (über 25 inzwischen) immer noch dem eigenen Schaffen neue Facetten hinzuzufügen und derlei innovative Klänge auf CD zu bannen, ist eine reife Leistung. Und genau diese Leistung wird auf All mine enemys whispers auf sechs Stücken, die insgesamt eine Dreiviertelstunde ausmachen, präsentiert. Ein gelungener Brückenschlag von Dark Ambient hin zur Neoklassik.
For All Mine Enemys Whispers Attrition have enlisted the talents of Ned Kirby (Stromkern), Laurie Reade (High Blue Star), Ute Mansell, Erica Mulkey (Rasputina) and Emilie Autumn playing out the tale of Mary Ann Cotton through haunting electronics overlaid with passages of cello, piano, Victorian nursery rhymes and Christian hymns. It's a surreal and quite chilling representation avoiding any straightforward narrative.
'What Shall I Sing', the opening track, consists of haunting electronics, a tinkering piano melody, stuttering sax sounds, sinister mutterings and the fragmented reciting of a nursery rhyme read by Bowes's young son and daughter. Shuffling feet, mordant cello, discordant and scraping strings create the chilling atmosphere of 'The Burial Club'. Better still is the 'The Reinsch Test' where curious whisperings and hissing electronics coalesce, slowly moving into classical piano score above the feint hiss of windswept atmospherics and sinister cello movements. On 'The Gates of Eternity' atmospheric electronics are augmented by the sounds of running footsteps, the clangs and bangs of the jailhouse, and the creaking wood of the trapdoor. A sorrowful violin score plays throughout, as electronic shudders signify the drop and slow and painful demise of Mary Ann Cotton. You can almost picture the body swinging on the opening bars of the Christian hymn 'Rock of Ages', sung by Emilie Autumn, her passionate rendering couched in weeping and wailing strings. A series of billowing groans and uneasy black atmospherics set against cello stabs and short bursts of saxophone create the genuinely unsettling final piece 'Heaven Is My Home'.
All Mine Enemys Whispers incorporates the dark ambient and neo-classicalism usually associated with Attrition but in order to deal with the subject matter it's performed in a rather bleak and chilling manner. It's a nice addition to the Attrition catalogue and those with a penchant for the macabre won't want to miss out. The packaging has been lovingly compiled with images of Mary Ann Cotton, her sewing box - gifted to and now in the possession of Martin Bowes, and poison bottles. The first 1000 copies include reproduction stickers of original Victorian poison bottle labels. For more information go to www.attrition.co.uk or www.projekt.com
Today, sees the release of the lavishly-packaged CD All Mine Enemy's Whispers. It tells the tale of the infamous Mary Ann Cotton (1832-1873), possibly the most notorious female mass murderer of all time. I often use the word 'haunting' to describe the musical soundscape Attrition create. This time that description is right on the button. This latest CD is, in my humble opinion, his finest work, and I mean work. This is not merely another great musical offering, this is stellar stuff, and like any great composer Martin tells the story perfectly with sound. It becomes a soundtrack to your own imagination, as it rumbles its macabre way through the half-light of a gothic Victorian nightmare. Spirit violins from seemingly nowhere fade into the chilly darkness of silence as they strive to compose their grisly tunes.
Don't expect pop or even rock tunes here, this is far more akin to the classical music genre. It's superb, and I'm proud that something as imaginative as this can come out of Coventry. -Pete Chambers
After a troubled childhood in Northeast England, Mary Ann got a taste for wealth when her Mother remarried to a man considerably more well-off than her Father, who had perished by falling down a large mine shaft. In her late teens she began to study as a dressmaker and met the man who would become her first husband. They had nine children together, most of whom died from gastric fever, a common ailment at that time. Her husband happened to die from a similar ailment, leaving her to collect his insurance money. A second husband also died suddenly. She was hired as a housekeeper by a man whose wife suddenly fell ill and died. He took comfort in Mary Ann's advances and they were married, but suffered great tragedy as their children died off, one by one, from gastric fever. Distraught and growing distrustful of Mary Ann and her inquiries into his insurance plans, he threw her out.
Mary Ann's Mother also died of a mysterious stomach ailment around this time. Another husband, another lover and more children fell victim to Mary Ann's scheming. A Parish official became suspicious of all the deaths around this woman and persisted in his attempts for answers. It was discovered that the "stomach ailment" which had claimed one of Cotton's children was, in fact, arsenic poisoning. Mary Ann Cotton was tried for this and other murders and hanged on March 24th, 1873.
Martin Bowes, mastermind behind the legendary, twenty-eight year old electronic act Attrition became somewhat bedeviled with this story for an interesting reason. The daughter of the arresting officer in the Cotton case, Louisa, had worked for Mary Ann as a seamstress. When the murderess was sent to jail she gave Louisa her prized sewing box as a means of payment. It was an item which was passed down through the family and ultimately found its way into the hands of Bowes after having been in his family's attic for many years.
Bowes has always displayed a curious ear for art over traditional song structure and Attrition has never been an act known to play things safe in an effort to achieve mainstream acceptance. Back in the early Eighties there were no clubs that catered to fans of Industrial music. Booking a show and building an audience came slowly, but now the name Attrition is universally lauded and accepted as an innovator, a dark and creative force unparalleled by modern musicians. Bowes' standards are very high and he handpicked some fine collaborators for this project, among them Stromkern's Ned Kirby, Erica Mulkey of Unwoman and Rasputina, Laurie Reade of High Blue Star and Pigface as well as other capable contributors. Limiting the pressing of this release to 1000 and providing, along with the artwork in the digipak, a set of 4 reproduction stickers of original Victorian poison bottle labels, this is a work for the earnest collector and the sort of release that will be mentioned for many years to come.
The intonations of children flit through a milky darkness where piano suddenly breaks out of nowhere and a static hum permeates a weighted atmosphere, serving as the only rhythm in this formless void. Welcome to the mid 19th Century and the spirits that haunt the memory of a remorseless killer, a destroyer of lives. Things take an especially dark turn with "The Reinsch Test" where the sounds grow rather expansive and considerably more eerie with a looping bass burnout and a lot of ambient metallic noises. Accusations begin to fly about a minute into "The Trial," but not in a cohesive aspect. These are ghostly, angry and pained whispers floating in a discorporate manner above an ominous, airy ambiance. It's almost revolutionary in its severe, unsettlingly framed stasis. Then the piano draws forward, highlighting the horrific drama clawing at the senses of the decent and upright while cello underscores the dread.
Accusations begin to fly about a minute into "The Trial," but not in a cohesive aspect. These are ghostly, angry and pained whispers floating in a discorporate manner above an ominous, airy ambiance. It's almost revolutionary in its severe, unsettlingly framed stasis. Then the piano draws forward, highlighting the horrific drama clawing at the senses of the decent and upright while cello underscores the dread.
"The Gates Of Eternity" don't offer any sort of salvation or provide a tidy ending to the story with cavernous, windswept sentiments and a frigid version of "Rock Of Ages" sung by Emilie Autumn with violin accompaniment. "Heaven Is My Home" isn't exactly a glimpse into the promised land, but does embrace a sort of spiritual half-light which seems to call into question any kind of universal justice or lack thereof. Label it dark ambient, experimental electro, mood piece or simply uneasy listening, All Mine Enemys Whispers is a grippingly unsettling work of piercing art that will beckon you for an interpretation. From the soul of one haunted man to the place you call home, pull down the shades, dim the lights and see if you can relive the nightmare of Mary Ann Cotton without being deeply challenged and affected. -Christopher Roddy
Completed (one speculates probably by design!) on 31st October 2007, this is a break with convention (as if Attrition ever did convention!) in that this is pretty much a straight soundtrack to a story in the same way an instrumental score for a film is a soundtrack. Here then are six lengthy compositions that dare to enter into and then explore the psyche of Britain's most prolific female serial killer. The pieces chronologically following the life and eventual death of Mary Ann Cotton.
This is a collection of atmospheres, of moods, of emotions, not a series of songs and as such is most effective when listened to in isolation. On each track, Bowes has laid down an electronic tone backing over which a variety of guest artists have contributed traditional instrumentation. Stromkern's Ned Kirby adds piano, Ute Mansell saxophone, Erica Mulkey cellos, Emilie Autumn violins and vocals. Bowes' children also contribute their voices on the opening What Shall I Sing? chanting a Victorian children's rhyme about Cotton. Laurie Reade also provides voices on a couple of tracks.
Listening to All Mine Enemys Whispers requires a sound constitution, and there are moments here that could chill the bones of the dead. When long-time Attrition fan Emilie Autumn performs her haunting rendition of the hymn Rock of Ages as part of the ten-and-a-half minute The Gates of Eternity you get a sense that far from just roundly condemning Cotton, Bowes has it within him to pity her. A remarkable work of art. (The limited edition first of 1000 includes a rather neat set of four reproduction stickers of original Victorian poison bottle labels.) 8/10 -Rob Dyer
Whispers weaves the horrific tale of Mary Ann Cotton, one of England's most notorious serial killers. Responsible for the deaths (by poisoning) of up to 21 people – most of whom were her own children – Cotton would be perfect subject matter for a horrifying Halloween concept album. But instead of taking the more overtly gruesome route, Bowes opts for a sublime ambiance of growing doom to pull you headlong into the very thoughts of this human monster... even daring to make you sympathize with her before dragging you bodily to the depths of the underworld, surrounded by the whispering chants of her many victims.
As it turns out, Cotton is more than a mere macabre curiosity as far as this artist is concerned: the project was born out of Bowes' own ancestral link to Cotton's killing spree. Not only is he a distant relative of the constable who arrested Cotton in 1872, but Bowes recently came into possession of Cotton's sewing box, which the convicted murderer gave to the officer's daughter (Bowes' great great great aunt) just before her imprisonment. A photo of the box is included in the CD liner notes, and the sound of the box being struck can be heard on the track “Gates of Eternity.”
Interwoven with Bowes' elaborate synth programming and sound effects – which range from deep drones and hums to open, airy washes and some jarringly distorted glitch-loops – are eerie contributions from variety of recognizable names in the Gothic and dark ambient/industrial genres: Emilie Autumn takes up her signature violin as well as providing one of the few conventional lyric passages (a creepy rendition of “Rock of Ages”) on “Gates of Eternity,” while Rasputina's Erica Mulkey joins on cello, Ned Kirby of Stromkern plays piano and Laurie Reade of Pigface and High Blue Star offers backing vocals. Even Bowes' children participate with a bone-chilling rendition of a Victorian children's rhyme (“Mary Ann Cotton... She's dead and she's rotten”) on opening track “What Shall I Sing?” The expanded canvas results in a more complex, focused sound than I expected, with motifs that speak to an abstract storytelling style – it all feels like the score to a sublime horror film that exists only in your mind.
Avoiding all of the pretensions that can often accompany a concept album, Whispers is one of the most unique musical realizations I've heard in a years. A completely immersive work of art, it deserves to be experienced in a darkened room, awash in your choice of incense. To top off the experience, there's even a set of collectible stickers styled after vintage poison vial labels, that you can use to keep your roommate from borrowing your favorite cologne. -Gregory S. Burkart
The inspiration for the album seems to have come from Martin Bowes' recent discovery that his great great great aunt was the daughter of the policemen who arrested Mary Ann. She also worked for Mary Ann for some time as a seamstress. A well made experimental album in which the atmosphere is really transferred into music well. When reading the booklet and listening to the music at the same time, the meaning of the mostly instrumental songs become very clear. This is still one of the harder things to manage with instrumental music. -Joost
This is an album with a conception lying under many layers of sound, being dedicated to Mary Ann Cotton, her life and death (the album itself is divided into 6 tracks reflecting periods of her dwelling each), probably the most well-known female mass murderer in Victorian England, a woman who’s poisoned with arsenic (that was easily accessible at that time in chemist stores) between 16 to 21 of her own children, lovers and former husbands over many years. But you may say, that there’s nothing new and fresh in dedicating an album to a mass murderer.. Oh, if it was so simple, but it is not. The booklet tells us an exciting story, which actually shows a connection between Martin Bowes, the mastermind of Attrition, and Mrs Cotton through...a sewing box, which she passed as the only mean of payment (on departing for jail) to a lady, that was working in her house. Arthur Bowes, Martin’s father, being a child met this by that time very old lady, Louisa was her name, in 1940s and later this box came into his possession, making its way to Martin Bowes..
Sometimes we hear different stories about the thing that spirits of dead people stay in various objects that surrounded this person when he/she was alive and the sound on the album perfectly reflects the atmosphere of mystery and the spirit of evil present in the air. This atmosphere is achieved with the help of drone dark ambient background, created professionally by Martin Bowes, with trembling and nervous or mystic, cabaret-like piano passages (performed by Ned Kirby from Stormkern) included from time to time, insistent or insinuating and timid, sometimes tremolo cellos and violins performed by Erica Mulkey and Emilie Autumn, saxophone by Ute Mansell and of course voices and vocals of many kinds, whispering, being in agony and in fear, performed by Laurie Reade, Emilie Autumn (Track The Gates of Eternity, also cabaret-like) and Naomi and Jordan Bowes. The album is opening with an eerie children’s rhyme (Naomi and Jordan Bowes) that refers to a legend. According to this legend if you sing this rhyme on Halloween over Mary Ann’s grave, you will hear the sound of children crying.
To sum it all up, the album turned to be dark, freezing, anxious, a little bit mad with referances to electronic soundscapes, neoclassical strings and dark cabaret style.
Over recent years, Attrition have become renowned for their unusual coupling of electro beats, neo-classical music arrangements and operatic female and deep male vocals, all held together by a huge swathe of darkened atmosphere. Yet just below the surface, Attrition has always strived to be more diverse than this, with a number of their releases, including their 1982 ‘Death House’ release, focusing on the more experimental recesses of dark ambient compositions and captivatingly dark soundtracks, which is pretty much where we find ourselves now.
With a strong backbone of dense layers of dark ambient soundscapes and washes of electronic drones, a suitably dark and ominous atmosphere is produced and maintained throughout the album. This is built upon with lush neo-classical string arrangements, which add a depth and tantalisingly seductive and dreamily eerie edge to the proceedings, and are joined by a lone piano piece and the slow tones of a saxophone. The dark atmosphere created by this amalgamation of traditional instruments and electronically produced soundscapes is fantastically compelling, and has captivating qualities that share a great similarity to the attributes of a musical score. However Attrition are not content with stopping there. Oh no. They want this musical interpretation of Mary Ann Cotton’s story to be even more atmospheric and chilling, which they achieve by adding vocals in a variety of different styles, ranging from barely audible whispers of incidental vocals to children’s rhymes to the beautifully seductive charms of Emilie Autumn’s vocals on ‘Rock of Ages’. The use of occasional vocals on a predominantly instrumental album is executed fantastically well, and as such just adds another dimension to the drifting soundscapes that swirl beneath them, without becoming overpowering or losing the atmosphere that the music alone creates.
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Attrition, and I feel that Martin has, over the years, delivered a wide range of musical styles through his music spanning a plethora of genres and tastes, yet still, for whatever reason, the band don’t quite get the recognition in the post-industrial genre that they really deserve. I have a feeling, though, that that is likely to change finally, thanks to this release, as it offers a grand set of sombre, unilluminated soundscapes that fit more than comfortably alongside the more revered names within the genre. And the addition of stirringly alluring neo-classical arrangements may well help give them that extra edge over their contemporaries. The album is housed in an impressively designed digipack and accompanied by a six-page inset that tells the story of Mary Ann Cotton, and how this infamous mass murder can be linked to Attrition’s Martin Bowes through his ancestor, police sergeant Tom McCutcheon. Also included in the first pressing are a number of stickers reproducing the labels from the arsenic bottles that Mary Ann would have used.
There’s a huge catalogue of material out there that Attrition have produced over the years, with this album ranking near the top of the pile. It delivers the perfect exploration point for those who have yet to discover Attrition’s work, and for those already familiar with it, it delivers a dark, surreal exploration of sounds and aural textures from a band that never fails to impress. -Lee Powell
There are tones and ranges of sound that can channel emotional response directly into one's consciousness... Rhythmic entrainment and psychoacoustics are capable of eliciting specific emotional responses and constructing narrative experience. Few musicians are able to construct tracks in such a way as to accomplish this feat successfully, and fewer still are able to sustain such an experience across an entire album.
Attrition is certainly one of those few.. this is easily the most unsettling album I've heard in years, as deeply disturbing as anything I've come across in any piece of media. The album's six tracks are spaces against which the mind unfolds the full tale of Mary Ann Cotton, a soundtrack conjuring her essence. If any sequence of music has a chance of evoking a specific entity, this is the one.
It begins with an evokation, the children's rhyme that opens the very first track
"Mary Ann Cotton, She's dead and she's rotten She lies in her bed, With her eyes wide open Sing, sing, oh, what can I sing, Mary Ann Cotton is tied up with string Sellin' black puddens a penny a pair."
Legend has it that When the walls are thin between the world of the living and the dead on Halloween, reciting this rhyme over her grave was enough to call the spirits of those she'd killed to audible experience. Whispers of long dead children are heard, bemoaning their painful deaths at her hands.
In those days, arsenic was often used for murder but few were as prolific, or as reviled, as Britain's Mass Murderess Mary Ann Cotton by the time she was publicly executed. (One particularly interesting bit of trivia, newspapers had deliberately coarsened Mary Ann's features in what is likely the earliest incidents of airbrushing.)
At first listen this may seem like a soundtrack to a horror film, but this album is much more intentional and holds up to repeated listening in ways a soundtrack never could, subservient as they generally are to the director's vision--rather, this is a evocation of the essence of Mary Ann Cotton's story, linked by way of the sewing box she once held in her hand.
Martin Bowes great great great aunt Louisa McCutheon, a seamstress, recieved as payment from Mary Ann Cotton a sewing box, prior to her incarceration and subsequent public execution in March of 1873. This same sewing box can now be heard on track five, 'played' by Martin Bowes to provide texture to one of the most moving tracks on the cd.
The first track, "What shall i sing?" is available for download via Attrition's website, and provides a stunning introduction to this piece of work, but my favorite track is easily the fifth. A chilling piece entitled "The Gates of Eternity" split into two sections, i. A short Drop and ii. Rock of Ages, an incredible ten and a half minute track that sumons Cotton's public execution to the mind's eye while conjuring wind and ghosts through Bowes' soundscaping and Erica Mulkey's complex cello arrangement of Mary Ann Cotton's self-professed favorite hymnal. Emilie Autumn's vocals on ii.Rock of Ages manage to be both purifying and lost, a melodic anchor that fleshes out the mental construct the entire album creates.
The album comes to a close with the sixth track, "Heaven is my home or the other side of Jordan..." an auditory experience of the veils of space and time ripping apart to reveal some glorious afterlife and the deep fabric of souls wailing in harmonics outside of human hearing. This is an album you feel as much as hear, an album of dark ambient neoclassical compositions constructed both acoustically and electronically by a master of the craft. -Wes Unruh
In the album’s six imaginative compositions, there is a thread of an unraveling mind, conjuring evil intentions and carrying them out to grisly results. With voices, sound effects, a classical element (a hallmark of Attrition), and violin, even the use of strings to create the sound of a fly in “What Shall I Sing?,” this album is as eerie as music can possibly get.
All Mine Enemys Whispers may be Martin Bowes’ masterpiece. It also serves to show that the musical importance of Attrition is still at full strength, even after nearly 30 years.