Attrition (band)

Origin Coventry, England
Genres Industrial, dark wave, gothic rock, ambient
Years active 1980–present
Labels Third Mind, Projekt Records, Two Gods, Metropolis
Associated acts ENGRAM
Members Martin Bowes
Kerri Bowes
Anni Hogan
Simon Stansfield
Ian Arkley
Past members Julia Niblock
Chris Bowes
Ashley Niblock
Alex Novak
Pete Morris
Garry Cox
Laurie Reade
Sin D'rella
Alexys Becerra
Richard Woodfield

Attrition are an electronic music band, formed in Coventry, England in 1980 by Martin Bowes and Julia Niblock. The band emerged from the experimental post-punk scene of the early 1980s and, along with other groups such as Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, and In the Nursery, greatly contributed to the development of industrial music in the UK.[1] Still active 30 years later, Attrition have been a stanchion of darkwave and industrial music, influencing many younger bands in the genres while continuously fine tuning their own distinctive sound.



In 1979, Martin started a xeroxed fanzine called Alternative Sounds to document the Coventry music scene (including such notables as The Specials and Furious Apples). The fanzine ran for 18 issues until 1981, and culminated in a vinyl compilation, "Sent from Coventry" (on Cherry Red) and a brief appearance on the BBC's Something Else programme. During this time, Martin met Julia at a local gig and, with the addition of Martin's brother Chris on guitar, Attrition was formed. In 1980 Chris was replaced by Julia's brother Ashley Niblock on synthesizer, and a short time later they replaced their live drummer with a drum machine; these changes facilitated Attrition's development beyond the post-punk of the early 80s into more experimental veins of sound.[2]


Influenced by punk's do-it-yourself aesthetic, Attrition took part in the emerging cassette culture, contributing multiple early tracks to underground cassette compilations and fanzines alongside contemporaries such as Portion Control, Konstruktivits, Chris & Cosey, The Legendary Pink Dots, Nurse with Wound, and Coil. Attrition's first album release came in the form of Death House, a cassette of two experimental electronic soundtracks inspired by zombie films.[1] In 1983, Attrition received their first exposure in the national music press through a review by Dave Henderson in his "Wild Planet" column in Sounds, which led to their "Dreamsleep" track appearing on Henderson's compilation The Elephant Table Album, the band's first vinyl appearance. A postal collaboration with Seattle-based improvisational collective Audio Leter led to Attrition's second cassette album release, Action and Reaction. Attrition's first London concert followed, with a supporting slot from Coil, and the first European tour in April 1984 with the Legendary Pink Dots.

The debut album The Attrition of Reason appeared on Third Mind Records in autumn of 1984. The next year, Julia left the band to join the Legendary Pink Dots, and Bowes returned with new band members Marianne, Alex Novak, and Pete Morris to release the second proper Attrition album, Smiling, at the Hypogonder Club, which was generally well received. The following year, however, this lineup dissolved and Bowes released In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, a collection of rarities, compilation tracks, and B-sides from the preceding few years. This was the last release on Third Mind. The band then switched to Belgium's Antler-Subway Records for the release of "At the Fifitieth Gate" in 1988, which saw the addition of guitarist Gary Cox.[2]


After a short hiatus, Bowes began work on music once more and Julia rejoined Attrition in 1990. A compilation of songs from previous releases was released by Projekt Records in the USA, introducing Attrition to US audiences. "A Tricky Business" was released in 1991 on Italy's Contempo Records and marked a new era for the band. These US releases were complemented with European editions on German labels Hyperium and Trisol. The Hidden Agenda came out in 1993, followed by Ephemera in 1995, which mirrored the dark ambient nature of early album Death House.

1996 saw the release of 3 Arms And A Dead Cert, which showed an increased use of organic instruments, including orchestral elements.[3] This album also was the first proper release on Projekt, a relationship that would continue for many years and would see the release of a succession of albums during the '90s that saw progressed development of Attrition's signature sound. Also in 1996 the band toured the USA for the first time, at the culmination of which Julia left the band once more.[2] The following year, Bowes revisited various works from the past decade of Attrition music and recorded new classical string variations of the songs, releasing them as Etude. After heavy touring in the late 1990s, including a stop at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, Attrition released The Jeopardy Maze in 1999.


Five years passed between The Jeopardy Maze and the next Attrition album, Dante's Kitchen, released in 2004. During the interim a remix album and a rarities album were put out and the entire back catalog of Attrition was reissued on CD in Europe and the band focused on touring and playing live again. Attrition finally founded their own label, Two Gods, in 2006 and released Tearing Arms from Deities, a 25th anniversary collection of material spanning Attrition's career, and Something Stirs - The Beginning, a collection of many of their cassette compilation tracks from the early 1980s.[2] Two Gods would serve as a vehicle for releasing remastered reissues of the entire Attrition back catalogue in the following years. It has also served as a label for releases from other bands, including Rossetti's Compass.

In June 2008 Attrition once more became a multi-member act with the addition of female vocalist Sin D'rella.[4] Bowes and Sin then released the twelfth album proper for the band, All Mine Enemys Whispers - The Story of Mary Ann Cotton, a concept album built around the true story of a mid-19th century serial killer in England, the arresting officer of whom Bowes is a descendant.[5] The album bears a marked departure from what has come to be seen as the signature Attrition sound, ditching prominent synthesizer base lines, percussion, and vocals for atmospheric, ambient, and found sounds. Guests on the album include Emilie Autumn, Erica Mulkey, and Bowes' own two children.[6]

2009 has seen the release of a live album, Kill the Buddha!, that celebrates 25 years of live touring, and Wrapped in the guise of my friend, an album of Attrition songs covered by other bands. 2012 and Martin has worked with his wife Kerri on their first full-length movie score, Invocation. Martin taught music technology at City College in Coventry for many years and regularly produces albums for other artists in his studio The Cage.

2013. The Unraveller of Angels...

Musical influences and characteristics

Martin Bowes has cited a wide variety of influences on his music, including experimental rock, punk, post-punk, and industrial groups such as The Velvet Underground, Crass, the Sex Pistols, Magazine, Joy Division, and Cabaret Voltaire, early experimental electronic groups like Kraftwerk, classic rock'n'roll (Elvis), and even Beethoven.[1][7]

In the early 1980s, Attrition was grouped into the post-punk movement, and as post-punk birthed subgenres and cross-pollinated with others, the band came to be seen as an early and influential part of the fledgling industrial and darkwave genres. Later on they would also gain a considerable following among the goth scene.[8] By the early 90s Bowes had become the primary member and songwriter[9] and Attrition had developed its own distinctive electro-acoustic sound. This was based on Martin's deep growl, Julia's fretless bass work and breathy sub-operatic vocals, and a backline of electronic instrumentation, comprising analogue synthesizers (including a Korg Mono/Poly and Korg MS-20), sequencer (Roland MC-202), drum machine (Roland TR-808), and various effects units.

"At first, there wasn't the same sort of scene and we were in more of an 'industrial' thing. There was nothing like the clubs you get now, it was actually quite difficult to play anywhere that would appreciate you. It's a lot easier now, it's not just Goth, it's a mix - Darkwave or whatever. That's gotten stronger, so that has helped, but really, we were there before it was built."[10]


(selected; a full discography can be obtained from the official website see links below)


Compilation albums

Live albums


  1. 1 2 3 "Attrition's Dark Musical Legacy". 12 May 2009. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Attrition History - a full biography". Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  3. "3 Arms And A Dead Cert". Archived from the original on 7 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  4. "Attrition news (June 2008)". June 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-12.
  5. "All mine enemys whispers - the Story of Mary ann Cotton". 2007. Archived from the original on 7 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  6. "Interview with Martin Bowes of Attrition". QRD. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  7. "Attrition interview (April 1995) in QRD". QRD. April 1995. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  8. "Attrition - 28 Years Silencing Mine Enemys Whispers". Regen. 20 September 2008. Archived from the original on 24 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
  9. "Interview with Attrition". Chain D.L.K. 24 June 2004. Retrieved 2009-10-14.
  10. "Composing noises". Sorted magAZine. 1999.

External links

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