Martin Bowes has never shied away from the darker side of life but you could never say he has wallowed in it. That is... until now. But he has good reason. Mary Ann Cotton poisoned the best part of 20 of her own children and partners before she was caught and hanged in 1873. If that wasn't sufficiently compelling, get this, Bowes is the descendant of the arresting officer, and a sewing box once belonging to Mary Ann has been passed, rather uneasily, down through the generations and is now in Martin Bowes' possession. (A photograph of the box taken by Bowes can be found in the accompanying booklet.)
Completed (one speculates probably by design!) on 31st October 2007, this is a break with convention (as if Attrition ever did convention!) in that this is pretty much a straight soundtrack to a story in the same way an instrumental score for a film is a soundtrack. Here then are six lengthy compositions that dare to enter into and then explore the psyche of Britain's most prolific female serial killer. The pieces chronologically following the life and eventual death of Mary Ann Cotton.
This is a collection of atmospheres, of moods, of emotions, not a series of songs and as such is most effective when listened to in isolation. On each track, Bowes has laid down an electronic tone backing over which a variety of guest artists have contributed traditional instrumentation. Stromkern's Ned Kirby adds piano, Ute Mansell saxophone, Erica Mulkey cellos, Emilie Autumn violins and vocals. Bowes' children also contribute their voices on the opening What Shall I Sing? chanting a Victorian children's rhyme about Cotton. Laurie Reade also provides voices on a couple of tracks.
Listening to All Mine Enemys Whispers requires a sound constitution, and there are moments here that could chill the bones of the dead. When long-time Attrition fan Emilie Autumn performs her haunting rendition of the hymn Rock of Ages as part of the ten-and-a-half minute The Gates of Eternity you get a sense that far from just roundly condemning Cotton, Bowes has it within him to pity her. A remarkable work of art. (The limited edition first of 1000 includes a rather neat set of four reproduction stickers of original Victorian poison bottle labels.) 8/10
Rob Dyer (May 2008)
Few bands have really earned a retrospective compilation of past highlights as much as Attrition. This sixteen track selection by Mr Attrition himself, Martin Bowes (and released on his own Two Gods label), spans an impressive twenty five years and in doing so is as much a reflection of Bowes personal development as it is a record of Attrition's musical milestones. No one else manipulates and sculpts sound quite like Attrition have over their career to date and this collection is an eclectic reflection of the dark and twisting places Bowes' project has visited in a quarter of a century so far.
Wrapped in a typically beautiful (yet simultaneously unsettling) digipak, this limited edition album is both the perfect retrospective and introduction. Hopefully it will go someway to encouraging more people to explore the deep and rich back catalogue of the band. Rather than simply collect some songs into one place, Tearing Arms from Deities is a collection of rare, remixed and re-mastered works. A thoughtful and insightful touch is added in the accompanying 16-page booklet by Bowes when he provides short personal comments on each of the songs from which were learn some history and backstory as to how some of the songs came into being and also, as ever, Bowes bearing his soul touching on the personal inspiration or traumas that gave rise to some of their key moments. No mere collection of 'hits', the album is as esoteric and as challenging as Attrition itself. As Bowes himself says "Songs from the heart are always the best ones". Attrition don't do anything else which is why this album is such a compelling proposition. 7/10
Rob Dyer (December 2007)
Any new release from England's finest dark electronic act creates a sense of anticipation. Not least because mastermind Martin Bowes is one of the most original and unique songwriters of his generation. This latest (Attrition's 10th studio album) only goes to prove the point.
If you've ever wondered what drum and bass gothic would sound like then wonder no more. Only Bowes could pull off such a bizarre experiment to so convincing an effect. Dante's Kitchen ranks amongst Attrition's finest work. In many ways it is, perhaps ironically, also one of their most accessible.
Although the complex melange of styles will likely baffle and excite onlookers in equal measure, its the ultimately successful blending of rich influences (as the album's title suggests) that sets Dante's Kitchen apart from all previous Attrition albums and any and all competition. At the same time it demonstrates that operating at the sharp end of the creative spectrum can reap compelling results for those brave enough to work there. Compelling too (fortunately!) for listeners. For those with open minds and ears are lavishly rewarded.
"D 'n' b gothic" may be a convenient oversimplification to make a point, but whatever succinct description you choose for this release will still only hint at its rewards. A key work from a genuine artist. 8/10
Rob Dyer (September 2004)
Official Attrition website: http://www.attrition.co.uk