[Reviewed by: Peter Marks]
Another twenty tracks of primordial goodness from Coventry’s Attrition. Martin Bowes gives up some his most remarkable darlings with the release of this new collection from the band’s earliest days. A word of warning, dear listeners, these are the rough outtakes and alternate takes which never saw the light of day and which Bowes lugged around all these many years in boxes on slowly decaying cassettes. I suspect this is being released for the fans like myself who knew that ‘Something Stirs’ was just the appetizer because unlike that release this one is sprawling. It’s like being locked in a tiny, constricted room with no windows or ventilation listening to this.
The desperate intensity which these pieces give off burns like a fluorescent bulb stripped of it’s insulation. Naked, savage and crudely abrasive, this era of Attrition was certainly the most unpredictable. You never know where these compositions are going to wind up, most are extremely minimal. A couple synth lines, some jarring percussion and over the top Martin bellows while Julia rasps and wails. The pacing is manic, the production definitely shoe-string, which only expands the raw power this album displays with glee. Every time I go back and immerse myself in this sort of work from them I come away with the feeling of having just been pummeled by an avalanche of sharply hewn boulders.
If free-formed electronic experimentation is your forte, you’d be wise to check this out. Their later refinements are not to be found here, these are the private moments of a group who during this time were well praised for ‘The Attrition of Reason’ but out of the media glare and that infamous ‘Elephant Table’ compilation did some remarkably inhuman sounding songs. Don’t worry, there’s a demo version of “Monkey in a Bin” to give an indication that they could play nice when the situation required it. There’s also another take on “Mind Drop” which gives the officially released version over to the dogs to rip apart. You spooky types are not going to be very enamored with what is on here, ‘Etude’ this is definitely not.
Whenever there’s need to torpedo yet another youngster’s view of how safe and slick the 1980s were, I know I can always pull out what this bunch did in those days to underline the point. No clever hooks, no catchy choruses. This is the bare bones skeleton of Attrition, the cement and steel foundation to a band who continue even now to confront and confound. I’m so pleased to get more of this, it’s like a breath of fresh air given what the state of the underground has mainly become. The dynamics they achieve with so little equipment is remarkable, I can’t imagine many of these dervishes could have been done in any kind of proper studio setting.
Renegade sound tacticians roaming the countryside composing whenever and wherever they could. I only wish I’d have been able to see them live during these days, the audience reaction must have been one of complete repulsion (remember, the punk era was still going on during these years). Did they get it as bad as Suicide? A lot of what’s on here has that same kind of anarchic core to it which Rev and Vega pioneered in the early 70s. Attrition took it in a different direction, however, adding a few more layers of effects and contrasting vocal styles.
There’s some serious exploration going on here with ‘Demonstro’, if he’s hiding any more of this I cannot wait to hear it. I’m more than familiar with what he does musically but this one threw me for a loop, I had no idea Attrition got this far outside the established norms of song structure. Somehow, I know I’m not alone in this. Step through the curtain and hold on for dear life.