Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Review: Attrition – 'The Unraveller Of Angels'

'The Unraveller Of Angels'

The sound and imagery of Attrition evokes a sense of standing in an abandoned space. A crumbling edifice where the ghosts of those who lived there and events that transpired there linger as palpable presences and a heavy feeling. The beat driven tracks have percussive and sequenced structures characterized by great precision and strategic stabs of distorted guitars. Woven through this precise and cold sonic architecture are layers of more free-flowing, ambient and organic elements, populating the space carved out with haunting spectres. Martin Bowes' vocals move among the spirits. Unlike the way the vocals cut through to the forefront on 1991's A tricky Business they embed themselves at the centre  Interestingly, the vocals are more another instrument in the speakers, but through headphones they it's like they come from within the listener's head, clear and intelligible.

There are may details of the arrangements and production that impress and fascinate throughout. The way the strings are captured, so one can hear the drag of the rosinous bows and the tone of the wood. Many underground releases can work a lo-fi aesthetic to their advantage and an immaculate production can often de-claw and de-fang what would otherwise be a more potent experience, but with Attrition the superior recording and mastering are elements of the overall artistry.

Opening introduction 'The Unraveller' with its layers of inviting spoken voices opens up the door to the world that unfolds on this release, leading into the synthetic and skittering descent of 'Karma Mechanic'. Intriguing and forward lurching in its spare insistence. There's no turning back.

'Narcissist' pounds out an infectious dance groove that swells and opens up in a breathless chorus and pulls back into the hard charging breakdowns. 'Histrionic' comes in with a an up-tempo beat and a keening violin and builds on with layers of piano, strings and electronics to a crescendo. This  peak resolves into the opening string section of 'One Horse Rider', a ritualistic fever dream of a song juxtaposing languid violins with mounting percussion and passionate backing vocals. 'Snakepit' and 'Suicide Engineer' both give the guitar more of a role. The guitar is in the pocket of the grooves, which works best accenting the waltz feel of the latter. 'The Causal Agent' with its atmosphere of encroaching, slow moving menace winds up with a groove like a subtle mental shift, like a decision made that builds with increasingly heavy percussion and ever more rapturous voices.

'Hollow Latitudes' combines the classical and electronic strains in a very hauntingly beautiful way. The track opens with a lone melancholic piano and violins come in one by one interweaving a melody that develops and circles around itself. It builds, pulsing and ritualistic, pulling the listener into its narrative psychogeography. 'The Internal Narrator' – the title for this song would be a good way to describe the feeling Martin's vocals convey here. Plucked piano strings ring dissonant and scratching among the floating voices and feedback guitars. Percussive explosions come like poltergeists slamming doors.

On 'The Unraveller Of Angels' many special guests, including Mona Mur, Matt Howden, Annie Hogan, Erica Mulkey (Unwoman), Ian Arkely and more. The star of this twisted tale is the songs and every contribution, every element supports the songs and with this, the listener is well served.

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