To have both Black Light Ascension and Attrition, who now took over the stage, back to back on the same bill was genius synergy. Both create a trance-like hypnotic state in me – something I crave when hearing live music. One of my most-seen live bands over multiple decades now, and as enticing as ever, you never quite know what to expect from Attrition live. And tonight was something a bit special.
In a touching tribute to former member (and wife of founder Martin Bowes) Kerri, who shockingly passed away all too young at the start of this year, tonight’s set was based on a soundtrack the two of them composed a few years back for Invocation, a horror film. There was live improvisation on top. In fact, the last show Martin and Kerri did together was to perform the soundtrack at a festival in the mountains of Transylvania. I’d never heard it, so the next 45 minutes was an unexpected journey of discovery.
In a nice connection with the band’s origins, Bowes was joined on stage tonight by Richard Woodfield, who was in the band when they put out their first album This Death House way back in 1982.
The ambient start had me thinking of James Ray again and his Peru4060 project. Bold, brave, almost confrontational in its style, this felt like an appropriate homage to the lost soul of Kerri Bowes. Martin moved from keyboards, to drum pads, to an Akai Ewi wind MIDI controller plugged into a synth via effects pedals. The latter not always appearing to behave as it should, causing him to look a little perplexed at times. Woodfield played synths throughout, just as he had all those years ago.
Behind the two of them for the duration ghostly images of Kerri were projected. It seemed like Martin was working something out live on stage. It must have been profoundly personal for him. This was a deeply moving combination of black and white projections and troubling soundscapes, and unlike any other Attrition gig I have ever been to.
By the end, with those images of Martin and Kerri performing together, it was heartbreaking to watch. Only Martin knows what he must have felt like, but even for the onlooker, this was sublime beauty packed with trauma and loss.