Throbbing Gristle’s 30th anniversary, and the industrial progenitor’s reformation with The Endless Not album, almost overshadows the fact that many of the experimental and industrial groups formed in TG’s wake have celebrated their 25th anniversaries — a milestone nearly as incredible. In that company can be included such European icons as The Legendary Pink Dots, Nurse With Wound, Einstürzende Neubauten and Attrition.
Formed in 1980 by Martin Bowes in Coventry, England, as a post-punk trio, Attrition’s early output presaged trends that would emerge as genres of their own in the ’90s gothic/industrial resurgence. Drones and tape manipulations released under the title Death House prefigured dark ambient “isolationism” by almost 10 years, while the group’s first two proper albums — The Attrition of Reason and Smiling at the Hypogonder Club — set the tone for the style now known as darkwave.
Attrition had its day in the college-radio spotlight with the spooky “Monkey in a Bin,” released alongside the likes of Nina Hagen, Alan Jourgensen and Howard Jones on the 1987 Wax Trax compilation Animal Liberation (which benefited PETA). Since then, Attrition has released more than a dozen albums on such labels as Third Mind and Projekt, each one striking a balance between dualistic forces: Gloomy atmospheres mixed with prodding beats; classical bombast melded with ambient noise; Bowes’ stern spoken vocals (comparable to Adi Newton of Clock DVA) juxtaposed against a series of increasingly operatic-sounding female vocalists.
Recently Bowes’ long-running project thas been joined by wonderful vocalist and song writer Sin D’rella, of accalimed UK act Imprint. She adds what many Attrition fans consider the most emotive and expressive element yet to Bowes’ assault of dark electronica, which is more concerned with enveloping listeners in a dense nebula of soundscapes than with moving bodies on the dance floor via the clichéd thud-thud of many a goth-club chestnut.
That’s good, because the “baby bats” can loosen their corsets and shake off some sweat while examining Attrition’s self-released best-of, Tearing Arms From Deities — it’ll catch them up on what Martin & Co. were doing while Mom was changing their diapers and driving them to soccer practice. Though if anyone wants to bring Martin a cake with 25 candles, just make sure it’s devil’s food.
BY MANNY THEINER