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Legendary Pink Dots, The
& Attrition: The Terminal Kaleidoscope
Action and reaction
Tracks 1 - 9 Recorded on 4 track portastudio. 1981 - 83. Remixed and mastered by Martin Bowes at The Cage, Coventry, UK. 2006 Tracks 10 - 12 Live at The General Wolfe, Coventry, England. 1981.
SOMETHING STIRS – THE BEGINNING 1981-1983 is a collection of recordings that Attrition released for compilations. Martin Bowes, member of the band since day one, saved from dust the old 4 track tapes and borrowed a Portastudio from a friend and then transferred the recordings on a PC to clean the sound. The CD contains seven tracks coming from vinyl or tape compilations, one from the Alu/ Attrition split tape as well as four previously unreleased tracks: “Tones in black”, recorded in 1982 and three other tracks (“Domus”, “Hologram” and “Alter ego”) recorded live in Coventry in March 1981. On those three you can also hear the one and only drummer the band ever had. If you know “Shrinkwrap”, the most famous track of the Attrition early period, well, try to forget about it, because songs like “Something stirs”, “Pain”, “Birthrite” or “Onslaught” don't sound anything like that. They are mostly sound experiments with tape noises, bass guitar and a drum machine with the vocals of Julia Waller that spread her impetuosity with a style that remembered me early Siouxsie. Melody was an option and the bands main aim I think was the construction of a new way of channelling their feelings. Attrition succeeded in doing so...
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. -Matt Rowe
Little of the band's subtle polish or soft melancholy is on display here, but this collection of early demo tracks, remastered on vintage equipment by Attrition founder Martin Bowes, has plenty of power. Even this early in Attrition's career, operatic vocals were already a signature part of the band's sound, as evidenced by Julia Waller's layered wailing on tracks like "Birthrite," but perhaps the most interesting aspect to these early recordings is the experimental approach to rhythm. "Hungry Ghosts" accents synthesized minimalism with proto-industrial clanking and looped dog barks, for example, and "Onslaught," despite the presence of now dated hand-claps, takes a tribal approach to drum machine programming that holds up two decades later. Live bass gives a memorable, almost jazzy feel to "Cut It Fine" and "Mr. Toma (I Looked but It Was Gone)." The latter track also features deconstructed tape loops and studio manipulations that highlights Attrition's more experimental side; this is more like Throbbing Gristle than the classically-influenced darkwave that would typify such later hits as "A Girl Called Harmony." Continuing this exploration of experimental noise are two instrumentals, "I Saw You Slowly" and "Tones in Black," which utilize scraped violin and squeaking recorder in some of the earliest examples of dark ambient. In addition to these early recordings, Something Stirs also features three live tracks which reveal the more punk side of Attrition's work. "Hologram" and "Alter Ego" have a nice primal beat going for them, with lots of crashing rhythms and tripped out effects applied to Waller's vocals, but the real gem is "Domus," a snarling death rock number that throbs with electric bass guitar, played here by Bowes himself, as well as one of the few times Attrition ever played with a live drummer. Though newcomers to Attrition's work might be better off picking up the band's recent career retrospective, this is fascinating stuff for fans, and it's a joy to hear such quality recordings of the band's early development. Bowes has reason to be proud of this one; remarkably, this collection of tracks actually sounds cleaner than the band's first full-length album.