Attrition are an English electronic music band, formed in Coventry, England in 1980 by Martin Bowes and Julia Niblock. The band emerged from the experimental post-punk scene of the early 1980s and, along with other groups such as Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Einstürzende Neubauten, and In the Nursery, greatly contributed to the development of industrial music in the UK. Still active 30 years later, Attrition have been a stanchion of darkwave and industrial music, influencing many younger bands in the genres while continuously fine tuning their own distinctive sound.
In 1979, Martin started a xeroxed fanzine called Alternative Sounds to document the Coventry music scene . The fanzine ran for 18 issues until 1981, and culminated in a vinyl compilation, "Sent from Coventry" and a brief appearance on the BBC's Something Else programme. During this time, Martin met Julia at a local gig and, with the addition of Martin's brother Chris on guitar, Attrition was formed. In 1980 Chris was replaced by Julia's brother Ashley Niblock on synthesizer, and a short time later they replaced their live drummer with a drum machine; these changes facilitated Attrition's development beyond the post-punk of the early 80s into more experimental veins of sound.
Influenced by punk's do-it-yourself aesthetic, Attrition took part in the emerging cassette culture, contributing multiple early tracks to underground cassette compilations and fanzines alongside contemporaries such as Portion Control, Konstruktivits, Chris & Cosey, The Legendary Pink Dots, Nurse with Wound, and Coil. Attrition's first album release came in the form of Death House, a cassette of two experimental electronic soundtracks inspired by zombie films. In 1983, Attrition received their first exposure in the national music press through a review by Dave Henderson in his "Wild Planet" column in Sounds, which led to their "Dreamsleep" track appearing on Henderson's compilation The Elephant Table Album, the band's first vinyl appearance. A postal collaboration via exchanges of 4-track recordings with Seattle-based improvisational collective Audio Leter led to Attrition's second cassette album release, Action and Reaction. Attrition's first London concert followed, with a supporting slot from Coil, and the first European tour in April 1984 with the Legendary Pink Dots.
The debut album The Attrition of Reason appeared on Third Mind Records in autumn of 1984. The next year, Julia left the band to join the Legendary Pink Dots, and Bowes returned with new band members Marianne, Alex Novak, and Pete Morris to release the second proper Attrition album, Smiling, at the Hypogonder Club, which was generally well received. The following year, however, this lineup dissolved and Bowes released In The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, a collection of rarities, compilation tracks, and B-sides from the preceding few years. This was the last release on Third Mind. The band then switched to Belgium's Antler-Subway Records for the release of At the Fiftieth Gate in 1988, which saw the addition of guitarist Gary Cox.
After a short hiatus, Bowes began work on music once more and Julia rejoined Attrition in 1990. A compilation of songs from previous releases was released by Projekt Records in the US, introducing Attrition to US audiences. "A Tricky Business" was released in 1991 on Italy's Contempo Records and marked a new era for the band. These US releases were complemented with European editions on German labels Hyperium and Trisol. The Hidden Agenda came out in 1993, followed by Ephemera in 1995, which mirrored the dark ambient nature of early album Death House.
1996 saw the release of 3 Arms And A Dead Cert, which showed an increased use of organic instruments, including the first use of live orchestral elements as provided by Franck Dematteis of the Paris Opera. This album also was the first proper release on Projekt, a relationship that would continue for many years and would see the release of a succession of albums during the '90s that saw progressed development of Attrition's signature sound. Also in 1996 the band toured the US for the first time, at the culmination of which Julia left the band once more. The following year, Bowes revisited various works from the past decade of Attrition music and recorded new classical string variations of the songs, releasing them as Etude. After heavy touring in the late 1990s, including a stop at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, Attrition released The Jeopardy Maze in 1999.
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