What shall is sing?
Mary Ann Cotton was born October 1832 in County Durham , Northern England .
Possibly the greatest female mass murderer Britain has ever known, she left a trail of death throughout her life, killing between 16 to 21 of her children and former husbands over many years by arsenic poisoning .
She was eventually arrested, tried and hanged in Durham Jail on the 24th March 1873.
The Police officer that arrested Mary Ann Cotton was a Sergeant Tom McCutcheon.
Coincidentally, his daughter, Louisa McCutcheon, had worked for a while for Mary as a seamstress..
On departing for Durham jail Mary gave Louisa her prized sewing box as the only way she could now pay her for her work…
The sewing box was kept in Louisa's family and passed down through the generations.
Rather uneasily considering what it represented…
My own father met a by then very old Louisa when he was a young child in the 1940's
- He recently recounted this story and passed on the box on to me.
Louisa McCutcheon was my great great great aunt….
Martin Bowes. 2007
Attrition: All Mine Enemys Whispers. The Story of Mary Ann Cotton
Review from Darktwincities.com, USA
Mary Ann Cotton isn't well known in the States the way other serial murderers are but considering she left approximately twenty bodies in her wake, many of them children, the tale makes for one of brutal fascination.
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.
"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" 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.
Attrition's newest release is an ambient interpretation of the story of Mary Ann Cotton, a notorious mass murderer who poisoned over a dozen of her own children and former husbands and was executed in 1873.
That's creepy enough, but adding to the visceral chill of the album is that it features actual recordings of Cotton's sewing box, originally given to a seamstress named Louisa McCutcheon, who was coincidentally the daughter of Tom McCutcheon, the police sergeant that arrested Cotton for her murders.
Louisa was also an ancestor of Attrition's own Martin Bowes, so there's a deeper involvement than you'd usually expect from this type of recording that no doubt contributes to its eeriness.
Continuing the family connection, Bowes' children contribute to opening track "What Shall I Sing?" with a Victorian children's rhyme that wavers over nervous minor-key pianos (played by guest musician Ned Kirby of Stromkern).
"The Burial Club" is even more unsettling, with shuffling sounds and anxiously scraped strings interrupting the relative peace of bass-heavy organ drones, while "The Trial" contributes a sense of urgent panic with its manipulated layers of frightened whispering and groaning strings (performed here by former Rasputina cellist Erica Mulkey).
"The Gates of Eternity" starts off as an ambient soundscape marked by echoing footsteps and the jittery violin of special guest Emilie Autumn, but ends with one of the album's most haunting moments: a sorrowful rendition of the hymn "Rock of Ages," also performed by Autumn, that's so beautiful it conjures up a momentary sense of pity for the condemned killer.
"Heaven is My Home" ends things on a suitably somber note with distant choirs.
Recorded on Oct. 31, 2006, this is no ordinary Halloween album; Mary Ann Cotton's story, augmented by the real-life connections 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.
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.
By: Matthew Johnson
The latest album from Martin Bowes' Attrition is a conceptual work that is a brilliant mix of sound, instruments, and a poisonous draught of insanity. Based on the legend of Mary Ann Cotton, who is perhaps Britain's most prolific female serial killer, All Mine Enemys Whispers explores the darkness that led Mary Ann Cotton to systematically slaughter around 21 of her own children, lovers, and former husbands over a series of years by administration of various poisons. A telling of this story from an ambient perspective would be quite an undertaking for any musician but not so for Martin Bowes, whose previous works is no stranger to blended music and disturbances of the psyche.
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.
For 28 years Martin Bowes (for Attrition is Martin and vice versa), has been producing thought-provoking music, that neither conforms to the norm (whatever that is), nor pretends to be something it's not.
Martin is an artist first and a musician second. His compositions, whatever genre you want to box them in to, have been interesting at the very least and spectacular at their best.
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.