[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
A very unlikely resurrection is on our hands here. This project previously appeared as an apparent compilation one-off in the clumsy, fumbling Mesozoic era of the internet and was of interest only to those of us who knew the people involved. Somehow, through all the intervening years, it managed to stay on the minds of the two members who form it. How it was decided to re-activate this entity I couldn’t say. Here’s what I will jot down as I listen through these four songs for what must be the twentieth time.
This isn’t Attrition. Just throw that notion right out the window, forget what you’ve heard and focus on Engram as a new musical vehicle which just happens to have Martin Bowes as a member. His contributions aren’t anything remotely to do with his past, forget the cellos and the operatic vocals. Neither of those appear on this release, what things do show up are extremely dark of course but there is an experimental aspect to it which not even the wisest of fans could have foreseen. Long, incisive analog bass exercises which link up to disturbing vocal samples to produce not so much pieces of music, per se, but rather meditations on three dimensional space. What about atmospheres, you ask?
Engram’s main emphasis appears to be more on how what we do while in motion throughout life affects everything around us rather than slick edits or clever wordplay. I once read a line which stated that our thoughts form the universe and while this is up for debate, ‘What am I?’ is easily a treatise that grew out of this view.
Self-doubt gets a nice broadcasting on here, with the subject in question being somewhat exasperated because things were getting out of control but what gives: there were numbers coming in. This reliance on easily malleable yet somehow concrete, provable facts instead of intuitive discernment is a problem we’re facing with greater frequency on our world. Maybe it might just be time to do as was once urged and link arms against the screeching lords of capitalism who through the usage of propaganda and outright fear turn us one against the other, bringing out the worst instincts in us and then exploiting them for their own gain.
While we sit about eagerly awaiting the release of Engram’s debut album – is this really happening?- here’s about the only comparative to what Bowes has participated in previously that can match the vivacious creativity going on with this EP: ‘The Electronica Sessions’ which Attrition put out in a very limited run with the first 2000 copies of ‘Three Arms and a Dead Cert” in the 90s. Not so much for the sound but more the free-form approach where everything was not clearly defined or even recognizable at times. I find it quite fitting that in a similar manner, Engram’s latest includes a re-working of one of their own. Actually it’s their first song which got the ball rolling so long ago. Don’t worry, the original version is included as well, pulled out of the ether from 1996 as though they’d just done it.
Seventeen years, where have they gone…