Live reviews

ATTRITION @ Reproduktion 13 festival, London. 04/05/13

It made a nice change seeing Attrition outside of the Goth circuit where they seem to get most of their live appearances in the UK. They've always been more experimental electronic than Goth, so not only did they sit well in the mix of sub-genres represented on the bill today, it was good to see them take the top slot. (Driving force Martin Bowes had worked with festival organiser John Costello for a short period back in the mid-90s on the Engram project, releasing one album, in 1996.) Overrunning sound checking had pushed back the advertised timings by about twenty minutes or so meaning Attrition took to the stage a bit later than planned. Martin Bowes was joined this evening by TyLean (operatic voice) and John Bambury (synths).

They chose to perform just three songs from the new (21st!) album The Unraveller of Angels. Opening with Karma Mechanic, followed by the single Narcissist and, later in the set, One Horse Rider - my first immediate favourite of the new album material. Style wise The Unraveller of Angels sees Attrition in full-on electronic mode with a smattering of fast percussion and drum and bass beats alongside an otherwise very introverted sound. What it may lack in immediacy it more than makes up for in depth with Martin Bowes' vocals being almost exclusively of the dark narrative variety. The rest of the set chose choice cuts from the back catalogue giving them all substantially reworked arrangements so that although the set spanned more than two decades, it all blended together nicely. Well, as 'nicely' as any Attrition set can sound.

Some traditionalists may have preferred to hear the original arrangements, but most true Attrition fans know not to 'expect' anything live. That they are different every time you see them is part of what makes them such an essential live act. Although there were some of Bowes' familiar on-stage contortions, inhaling of joss-sticks, ripping up of the lyrics to Mercy Machine, and even a bit of public exhibitionism with his wife on the dance floor at one point, this was a relatively low-key performance. Entirely in keeping with the current sound and still exuding dark menace, and every bit as 'Attrition' as one might hope.

Set list: Karma Mechanic, Narcissist, Dante's Kitchen, Acid Tongue, I Am Eternity, One Horse Rider, Two Gods, Mercy Machine, The Long Hall

Rob Dyer

ATTRITION @ Reproduktion 13 festival, London. 04/05/13

Lights down. Here comes Attrition. Like an electronic band styled by Aubrey Beardsley, Attrition inhabit their own world. There wasn't anything like Attrition when the band first emerged from the new wave undergrowth in 1980. There isn't anything like Attrition now.

Martin Bowes, Attrition's main man, around whom umpteen line-ups and collaborations have revolved over the years, cuts an enigmatic figure in his swirling cloud of joss stick smoke. The music is a swirling cloud, too, out of which emerges a deep, dark, freight train rumble of bass. Beats skitter like fidgety kittens. Sampled strings swoop and jitter. It's all analogue ambience, but naggingly danceable at the same time; a surrealist, sepulchral disco. Martin Bowes growls a vocal that sounds like a 45rpm record being played at 16, while his co-vocalist, TyLean, pulls fragments of forgotten operas out of the atmosphere.

There's new stuff in the set, from The Unraveller Of Angels, ttrition's 21st album , and older songs that have obviously been given a good going-over by the mechanics. 'Acid Tongue', an Attrition live fave for years, has been souped up into a mighty thing now - prowling like a big cat, it's a slice of killer boogie, all the more effective for being delivered by a band so matter-of-factly defiant in their glorious oddity. Attrition seethe and swoop and convulse in the smoke, and if you let yourself be drawn into the band's serpentine flow, the sepulchral disco is a great place to party.

Nope, there's nobody else like Attrition. They might've called onights event Reproduktion - but some things, you can't reproduce.

ATTRITION @ Blacksun festival. USA. 14/03/08.

Attrition carried experience and professionalism with their performance. Their unique operatic female vocalist's melody combined with electronic dance beats created an otherworldly feel in the building. Lights gently bathed both the stage and the members of the band in color. Adding to the atmosphere, the distinct scent of incense floated across the room from the burning embers on the tips of the sticks in between Martin Bowes fingers. Attrition gave a powerful, serious, and harmonious performance coupled with memorable visuals and strong, rhythmic beats; an undoubtedly distinctive sound.

review : Regen magazine.

ATTRITION @ Camden Underworld, U.K.. 07/04/07.

"...Even though the support acts were of a satisfyingly high standard the best was yet to come. The recent past has been dark for Attrition - even by their standards. Martin Bowes' divorce from his wife, including the unfortunate legal wrangles over his two children, has been cited by Bowes as the reason for a hiatus in output in recent years but has also provided the fuel for songs like Two Gods (from the excellent Dante's Kitchen ). Meanwhile, Bowes' co-singer for the best part of twenty years, Julia Waller, who came to represent a vital part of the Attrition sound, left (amicably) in 2005. Such potentially devastating circumstances could finish off even the hardiest of creative minds, yet not Bowes.

If tonight's performance was anything to go by then it's had the opposite effect, driving this unique talent to ever greater heights, ever closer to perfection. Current vocalist Laurie Reade has not only filled the daunting void left by Julia Waller's departure but has (remarkably) replaced it with a new voice that's just as sympathetic to the older material and yet taps a whole new dimension meaning the replacement has been both immediate and entirely successful. Anyone familiar with Waller's vocal skills will understand what an achievement that is. The power of the combination of Reade's voice, Simon Stansfield's exhilarating live electronics and Martin's unhinged, joss-stick smoking gruff rumblings and MS20 knob twiddling is simply unrivaled anywhere. This tripartite comes together in perfect fusion on the unbelievable performance of Mercy Machine . Moments of euphoria like this are as rare as they come.

I'm starting to equate evenings spent at Attrition gigs with the high points in my life. Not just my musical life either - just life in general. Not only is the live Attrition sound something that has to be experienced in the flesh (no amount of their good studio albums comes close to conveying the same emotional rush) but one that anyone remotely interested in the alternative electronic music genre is doing themselves a disservice by not partaking....For they, like me, will have a precious memory to cherish as long as they live and to take to their grave when they finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

9/10 (mostly on account of you know who)

review : Rob Dyer / DSO zine

ATTRITION @ Convergence 12, New orleans, USA. 14/04/06.

...Performing at one of the first post-Katrina conventions — a Goth convention — England's Attrition shared their “dark electronica” or “darkwave” vision during this year's Convergence XII extravaganza. Melding Laurie Reade's operatic soprano voice with Martin Bowes' apocalyptic whispering against synthesized classical orchestrations, the band appears to be charting new musical territory as Bowes celebrated Attrition's 25th Anniversary. While Bowes is noted for remixing songs of his contemporaries, one must nonetheless wonder why this act has not been able to find crossover appeal outside of this scene. Perhaps mirroring the romanticism of its frequently misunderstood audience, Attrition is so far beyond the curve that it might be years before the mainstream catches up.

review by John Dean Alfone for Offbeat

ATTRITION @ Bar Sinister, Hollywood, USA. 29/01/05.

Having seen many Attrition shows circa 1985 in England and Holland it was a pleasant surprise to find out they were visiting my city nearly 20 years later. My memories of the Attrition experiences were very positive and I wondered if the band, the music, and the whole experience would or could measure up. Was I setting such high expectations that I was destined to be disappointed?
Well, I could have set the expectations as high as I wanted because the show was amazing. After two decades Attrition front man Martin Bowes has mastered the ring leader of tension role he assumes on stage. As usual he was complimented by a female singer that harmonizes with his vocals to give the music that Attrition signature. On this tour however, he was joined by the best female singer I have ever seen or heard Attrition with in a live setting or on a recording. Laura Reade from the band High Blue Star did the honors. She is a lot of dynamite packed into a petite package. Her stage presence is just as powerful as Siouxsie Sioux or Danielle Dax and she knows it. Her range and understanding of the kaleidoscope of color she is capable of creating makes he far superior to previous Attrition femme fatals.
The vocal harmonization's cover a volumetric wall of dark electronic rhythms best described as industrial techno on Dracula acid. Most of the band's set was from Attrition s new CDLP “Dante's Kitchen” which I highly recommend picking up. I would have like to have heard a few older tracks, but the music they did play was dark, edgy, and filled with a genuine gothic vibe. Which is after all what me and the rest of the L.A. underground came out to see.

review by Mark lane for Chaindlk

ATTRITION @ Camden Underworld, London. 9/9/00

"...One thing that Attrition have is the unexpected. Not least in their front man Martin Bowes. On stage his can be an unsettling, even disturbing presence. Dressed in black with white hair atop his long, thin body, Bowes is one of the most captivating lead singers I've ever seen. His bizarre, close encounters with microphone stands are the stuff of legend. Strolling on stage, inhaling on a joss stick like it was a cigarette holder, he slowly makes his presence felt. He emerges from the smoke and purges himself of the opening lines of Acid Tongue in his distinctive voice...
Songs regularly undergo such a transformation that it can take until the chorus is reached before you realise what you are listening to. Attrition have a lot of back catalogue to draw from and tonight's set took in everything from the "Smiling, at the Hypogonder Club" (Mind Drop) through their nineties dread-leaden dark electro to their latest album" The Jeapordy Maze". Early 80s electro beats jostling with tour de force percussion programming and unforgettable vocals.
Experimentation with his own voice and the voices of others has long been a trait of Bowes' work and there's no skimping on this aspect live. From the deep-spoken, almost disembodied voice of Martin Bowes to the operatic drama of Christine Reid.
Dramatic, traumatic, ecstatic all sound like typical Attrition lyrics but they are also words which capture the unique mood that this equally unique band create. Enthralling and exciting, unpredictable and unprecedented, Attrition are one of the jewels in England's musical crown. I look forward to seeing them again, and again, and... "

review and photo: Rob Dyer / DSO zine

ATTRITION @ The Beat Kitchen, Chicago. 22/9/00

As usual, I was on time, the city was alive, and I was ready to see a band I have loved for years...
On to the Chicago version of "The Hand That Feeds Tour." A sparse set stage with two microphones, and a keyboard stand artistically draped in plastic, and placed towards the back, right in the middle. A space in the past reserved for the drummer. The keyboardist? starts with a cascade of analogue sounds, and the tension builds, a touch of smoke in the air, and Martin comes to the stage with a stick of incense burning, and enough attitude to charge the scene immediately. With him is Christine, decked out in a middle eastern type outfit, which truly lent an anachronistic touch to the evening. 'Acid Tongue' was the first song, and the rhythm pulsed and throbbed in a very ergonomic way. Although very familiar, the accompaniment by the keyboards was indeed being manipulated live. This was the beginning of a real intense 'Attrition' show. Although I want to soak it all in, I know I am going to dance. "Acid Tongue", "Right Hand Man", and "Atomizer (custom mother)", all rolled out in a truly tight fitting fashion.

"Dreamtime Collector", "Cosmetic Citizen", and "The Second Hand" show another power trinity of musical moments. Martin is on his knees shouting up at his microphone during 'Cosmetic Citizen'. Christine has proven to be the stage presence Goddess, that her outfit suggests. Hardly anyone can just stand. Those who don't dance, at least twitch, and those that don't twitch, must sit down, or else be caught swaying in the flow.

During 'The Second Hand', Martin is barking into the microphone to the familiar dog sample. It is eerie to see this British gentleman so Bulldog like. Reminds you of staring down an animal you meet when wandering the
wrong way near a neighbors yard, or some rural junkyard. This is real transformation here, what next...

A rise of smoke, and both the keyboard player and Martin disappear, leaving only Christine to do a chilling accapela version of "I am (eternity)". I am stunned , and only the return of the rhythm and the other players can snap me out of my daze. "Mind Drop" and "Waste Not, Want...More" ,are good enough reasons to be back on Earth though, and at this point the Earth is about to erupt, then low and behold. The epitome of 'Attrition" dance floor faves comes cranking out. "Lip Sync" , might just be one of the most recognizable tunes by this act. It's familiarity, combined with the extra white noise, and the vocal arrangement for Christine, make this the live song to hear.

"The Mercy Machine" was a surprise, and it was great to catch a dance with Batty for the classic "A Girl Called Harmony". I'm wanting to hear another version of "Lip Sync" at the end, but I am happy with "His Latest Flame". After all, this is the first night of the tour, and my travel plans take me back to Kansas City, for the last night....

ATTRITION @ Davey's Uptown , Kansas City. 26/9/00

Many times I think that I am going to be spoiled by having seen a bands show already. As if I have everything memorized, and therefore I won't get sucked into the vortex again. A really good act is worth seeing twice on tour.
I was even more amazed by the energy of this show. They didn't have any road wear and tear. I was surprised they were stopping here. Martin was all over the stage, at one point the incense was flicked just right, and the spark landed perfectly on my chest. It went out harmlessly, yet it all happened to the immense rhythmic accolades that were pulsing from the Davey's subs under the stage. Our 'Goddess' Christine was decked out more for the 'Bitch-Goddess role. This time in a cyber-punk type outfit. How can one not be in awe of such presence. The second take on many of my faves provided me with some 'lyric' insight I did not have before. Martin was just as jaunty onstage. I can really see the empathic link between this act and it's audience. Even with the amount of pre-recorded material, the extra textures of voice and analogue synths, made this a fair departure from the original show I saw. Once again I danced, and others danced. Occasionally you get lost, and look up right as others do. The expression of "oh, yeah, I'm here again," comes across your faces in unison. The dream broken, but only momentarily....

~reviewed by Rev. A. Strangerz for STARVOX

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tour sticker 2000
batcave NYC 2000
Laurie Reade, New Orleans. 2006
Camden underworld, London, 2007