Millions of the Mouthless Dead

by Attrition : Martin Bowes + Anni Hogan



Millions of the Mouthless Dead - ATTRITION Martin Bowes Anni Hogan
Private William Bowes of the West Yorks Regiment,
British Expeditionary Force, was hit by a German shell
while out working on trench defences.
He suffered a severe stomach wound.
Rescued by stretcher-bearers, his life was saved by
Canadian army medics in a front line field hospital.
He was repatriated to England where he stayed
and recuperated for the remainder of the Great War.
William Bowes was Martin Bowes grandfather


ATTRITION founder Martin Bowes has joined forces with ex-Mamba Anni Hogan and together created a world of sombre moods reflected in dark ambient soundscapes inhabited by pianos, strings, organ, found sounds and shifting atmospheres. With original war poetry and spoken word in English, French and German, with special guests including Wolfgang Flur (ex-Kraftwerk), Peter Rainman, Karla Aelswitha and Alexander Nym…


released August 4, 2015

Martin Bowes : Concept/Readings/Electronics/Production/Design
Anni Hogan : Readings/Grand Piano/Organ/Keyboards/Melodica/Hand Percussion
Special Guest : Wolfgang Flur (ex-Kraftwerk)
Guest Readings:
Alexander Nym/Peter Rainman/Karla Aelswitha
Original war poetry:
Wilfred Owen/Adrien Bertrand/Guillaume Apollinaire
Ludwig Ganghofer/Kurt Tucholsky/Roland Leighton
Charles Sorley, and inspired words from Fenella Tillier
All Music: Martin Bowes and Anni Hogan
‘Krieg’ Lyrics by Wolfgang Flur
Cover Photographs by Holger Karas and Andrzej Juja
Wth original photographs, letters and postcards from the family collection
Anni’s Grand piano tuning and care by Michael D. Harrison M.I.M.I.T.,C.G.L.I.
With thanks to TyLean and Gerrard Peers.

A Two Gods production
Produced Mixed and Mastered by Martin Bowes,
At The Cage Studios, Coventry, England, 2014 - 2015
Released by Ultra Mail Production: U.M.P. 038

In the press

ATTRITION Millions of the Mouthless Dead by Martin Bowes & Anni Hogan

Review from

Inspired by his grandfather's role in the first world war Bowes has enlisted the help of pioneering artist and musician Anni Hogan, as well as a guest appearance from ex-Kraftwerk hand Wolfgang Flür to explore his personal connection to the conflict. The result blends Bowes' dark ambient industrial soundscapes with Hogan's chilling piano with powerful readings of war poetry in various languages.
Mechanical noises, chilling pianos, strings and ambient electronics combine to create bleak and nightmarish soundscapes to evoke the wholesale horror and destruction of the war. Tracks such as 'Divine Providence', 'Mincing Machine', 'Shell Shock', and 'The Mouthless Dead' cutting deep with a balance of noise and dark ambience for chilling effect.
These are counterpointed by the avant garde approaches of pieces such as 'Into Cleanness Leaping', 'Heimatschluss', 'A Madman's Flash – As Quiet As', 'A Madman's Flash – All The Mad Men', and 'A Madman's Flash – Krieg' which frame spoken word readings with haunting piano and atmospheric synthesizers for an affecting listening experience.
The production is of course up to Bowes' usual high standards with a fine balance between ambient and noise running throughout that creates an unnerving and oppressive atmosphere throughout. Yet it is very accessible. It has been made to be heard as much as it has been made to evoke the horror of the war, and it does both very well.
Along with Einstürzende Neubauten's recent album 'Lament', 'Millions Of the Mouthless Dead' is one of the most powerful albums about the First World War to date. It is dark, chilling, and compelling. But best of all it is effective. With the war only recently out of living memory, the centenary years of 2014-18 take on a particular significance that is reflected in the album.

ATTRITION Martin Bowes Anni Hogan – MILLIONS OF THE MOUTHLESS DEAD by Santa Sangre
[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Dalton Trumbo wrote of the uncertainties and horror of war quite effectively but Martin Bowes and Anni Hogan bring it out palpably in sound. With his oppressive arrangements and her jarringly effective piano the pair of them create a world of unending smoke, mud and thundering guns. I’ve often read that it was the waiting which was the worst part of World War I; a fascinating series I discovered recently narrated by Kenneth Branagh has interviews with surviving veterans who pretty much say this and quite a lot more. The statement I liked best would be “anyone… who says he wasn’t afraid to go over the top… is a damned liar.” William Bowes no doubt would have agreed. But tempting as it is to broaden the scope of this review, ‘Millions of the Mouthless Dead’ is not an album about this war on a grand scale, it is a personal account. One drawn out of the echoing tides of time.

A voice amidst the chaos, one man’s experiences. This tale isn’t told by the man himself, but rather through the music his grandson Martin Bowes has created. The barbed wire, the endless rattle of the machine guns calling to the cattle; with minimal electronics driving the narrations and instrumental interludes you begin to get a feel for the day to day grind at the front. Nicely placed broadcasts are manipulated so that they sound as though they’re coming right off that phonograph and out of the megaphone. French, English and German text is read by native speakers and it amazes me that he was able to keep this under wraps for well over a year. But somehow this is just par for the course, after all what was more secretive than the activities of those nations involved in the conflict. Keeping the populace in the dark was a requisite.

The actions of the individual are what brought about the first World War. One man on the trigger, or in the case of Bowes’ grandfather: one set of hands in the munitions factory. Again, Trumbo writes in ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ about his main character in hospital with only his thoughts to preserve his sanity reflecting on that single shell being lovingly polished in a German factory that he had a date with. It’s fatalistic, yes, but consider that one of the formats this record comes as is a bullet shaped USB drive… a bullet with one’s name on it indeed. It becomes clearer with each listen I give ‘Millions of the Mouthless Dead’ what the real objective of the Great War was and just how lucky anyone who came out the other end of it were.

Every single time you begin to let your guard down or entertain any thoughts of life those guns rumble yet again; strewn across battlefields the multitudes were cut down… Attrition, I feel, have been spending their entire career building to the release of this album. If there’s one constant I hear again and again about WW1 it’s that towards the end of it things had come down to a stalemate which could only be broken through a war of attrition. Inch by inch the bloody ground grew even bloodier; Joe in his trench and William shoring up defenses outside of his, one character fictional the other real but the outcome remained the same: in 1917 the world just hadn’t had enough killing yet and so more young men would be thrown to the machines. Sanity no doubt became a precious commodity for those involved.

Anni Hogan’s subdued yet forceful playing I feel is meant to personify this inner struggle and she acquits herself well, the dread and tension cascade down upon you like a dogfight far up in the skies while whistling projectiles bring death and destruction into the midst no matter how fortified and dug in your position is. Did she compose these parts with shattering glass in mind? The effect is immediate and rattles one’s nerves expertly.

I think history has shown the leadership of these armies were anything but experts, rather they seemed to aspire to lofty deeds being put down in songs or the ceremonial praise of the monarchs. All for empire, yet you in the trenches will get none. For men such as William Bowes, this was a matter of life and death which no amount of patriotism could obscure. And on that subject, this release is also a timely one as once more those same saber rattling ‘men of influence’ are baying like ravenous pigs for the blood of others. Flags are being unfurled and speeches prepared… watch out, little guy, they mean to come for you soon.

Attrition: Martin Bowes & Anni Hogan - Millions of the Mouthless Dead

"This album is inspired and dedicated to the millions on all sides that experienced the living hell that was the Europe of 1914-18."

Millions of the Mouthless Dead is the latest release from Martin Bowes and Attrition. Millions of the Mouthless Dead is unique in the Attrition discography in that it is a collaborative work with Anni Hogan, who is perhaps best known for her piano and arrangement work for Marc Almond. Don't expect something along the lines of a cross between Almond's 'The Stars We Are' and Attrition's dark industrial electronics. Millions of the Mouthless Dead concerns World War I and reflects "a profound emotional response and sonic exploration into the horrors of The Great War."

Musically, Millions of the Mouthless Dead features sombre working of dark ambient soundscapes interspersed with piano, atmospheric sound effects - of shells, guns, rifles, marching soldiers, strains of national anthems and radio broadcasts - and war poetry from all sides. And yet there's a poignancy to the project reflected in the photos, postcards and ephemera included in the packaging of items provided by Martin Bowes of his Grandfather, Private William Bowes of the West Yorkshire Regiment, British Expeditionary Force who while serving in Ypres, Flanders, Belgium was injured by a German shell and repatriated to England where he remained until the end of the war.

The engine roar of war trucks carrying soldiers to the frontline opens Millions of the Mouthless Dead pitching a recitation of 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' over desolate ambient electronics and piano notes. The brooding reading of Wilfred Owen's lament for the young who perished in the Great War, questions the senselessness of war and the futility of religion to explain the chaos and devastation is set against crashing chords and tinkering notes from Anni Hogan's grand piano playing. The tone is set for what is come on Millions of the Mouthless Dead.

'Hammer Blow', the first of many atmospheric sound pieces scattered throughout Millions of the Mouthless Dead, effectively captures the horror of war through the sound of guns, rifles and shells and the ordered crunch of marching boots placed alongside German radio broadcasts, whispered voices and desolate atmospherics. It seems that many of the tracks illustrate significant events within the war. The spoken words in French by Peter Rainman of a Guillaume Apollinaire poem, over grand piano and scratchy vinyl textures of 'La Voie Sacre' is the first in a series of tracks concerning the bloody and deadly Battle of Verdun where thousands of French and German soldiers perished or were wounded. It's followed by 'The Blue Forest' a dark ambient experimental soundtrack where aching mournful strings are drawn into battle strewn effects before the pensive dark ambient movements of 'Mincing Machine' and its atmospheric sound effects of closing locks which may signify the determination of the French to withstand the German onslaught. In no way, and it's not surprising given the subject matter , Millions of the Mouthless Dead isn't an easy listen but it is fascinating to hear how Bowes and Hogan have constructed an album that doesn't hold back in its emotional punch.

The moody minimalist piano score of 'The Bone Factory' plays amidst a raging storm and crackling fires, as poetry is intoned in German. And while that may convey the dank conditions of the trenches, it is 'The Third Light' which really captures the chaos of trench warfare. A cacophony of drum and rhythm interplay flows into disembodied grand piano notes as the words of Roland Aubrey Leighton's 'Villanelle' are delivered. The poem relating the discovery of a dead soldier with violets growing around his body, expresses the incongruity of war and life in the trenches, is gently spoken in solemn female tones, while trench whistles bleat in the night, and shells explode before a lone Scottish piper performs the trench written 'Battle of the Somme'.

'The Mouthless Dead' is preceded by the doomy collage ridden 'Ghost of Empire' where war broadcasts are mixed with snatches of the 'Star Spangled Banner' and the organ chime of 'Land of Hope and Glory', while 'Shell Shock' comprises a brief series of devastating explosions. More war poetry features on 'The Mouthless Dead' with Charles Sorley's 'When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead' read in slow, pensive tones over shuddering electronic rumbles and dreamy piano chords notes tumbling into rhythmic drums.

The final section beginning with 'Heimatschluss' brings Anni Hogan's contribution to the fore with melodic wartime piano score cut with a fragment of the French national anthem before moving into a series of tracks titled around a line from Wilfred Owen's 'Arms and the Boy' poem which is itself recited on 'A Madman's Flash - All The Mad Men' over inventive grand piano playing and an ominous drone following a collage of German voices. Wolfgang Flür, an early member and fixture in the classic line-up of Kraftwerk, is enlisted on 'A Madman's Flash - Krieg', his spoken word delivered in German over icy electronics, before Millions of the Mouthless Dead reaches its homecoming on 'A Drawing Down Of Blinds', paraphrasing the closing line of Wilfred Owen's 'Anthem For Doomed Youth' in a sobering climax, over tolling bells, that contemplates the point of the war: "all the names, all these people that have died, all these young ones ... And what was it for?... Goodbye dear ... keep right on till the end of the road..."

On Millions of the Mouthless Dead Martin Bowes and Anni Hogan, as Attrition, have given voice to the fallen with a fascinating release of devastating soundscapes and atmospherics, heightened by their selection of war poetry - which aside from those English language poems already mentioned also include foreign language readings of poems by Adrien Bertrand, Ludwig Ganghofer, Kurt Tucholsky. And with the enclosed ephemera from Bowes' Grandfather Millions of the Mouthless Dead assumes a more personal quest to offer up an audio piece of wartime family history. Attrition may be better known for their gothic industrial electronics but Millions of the Mouthless Dead sits nicely beside All Mine Enemys Whispers, where Attrition supplied a surreal nightmare soundscape to a strange story about a Victorian serial killer. Live performances of Millions of the Mouthless Dead are planned in the countries of the Western Front with WW1 art-installation staging and visuals. Millions of the Mouthless Dead is available in a series of special limited editions direct from the official Attrition merchandise pages at Attrition & Anni Hogan's Bandcamp.

Attrition: Martin Bowes & Anni Hogan – Millions Of The Mouthless Dead
Artist: Attrition: Martin Bowes & Anni Hogan
Title: Millions Of The Mouthless Dead
Format: CD
Label: Ultra Mail Production
Rated: *****
I knew from Facebook that Anni Hogan had new releases ready and that one of them was with Attrition’s Martin Bowes. In the past they both composed music which has been important for an era as Anni with Marc Almond wrote many tracks that found a place on the 80s charts, while Martin, with Attrition released many tracks that influenced the early electronic industrial scene with their records released for the Third Mind label. “Millions Of The Mouthless Dead” sees they collaborating on an imaginary soundtrack that is focused on the dramas of the WWI and there’s a special reason why they decided that. You can read this text written by Martin, to understand: ‘June 1917. Ypres. Flanders. Belgium. Private William Bowes of the West Yorks Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, was hit by a German shell while out working on trench defences. He suffered a severe stomach wound. Rescued by stretcher-bearers, his life was saved by Canadian army medics in a front line field hospital. He was repatriated to England where he stayed and recuperated for the remainder of the Great War… William Bowes was my Grandfather”. All the music has been written by the duo and they also called some friend to collaborate for reading the lyrics. They had: Alexander Nym (“The Bone Factory” and “A Madman’s Flash – All The Mad Men”), Karla Aelswitha (“A Madman’s Flash – All The Mad Men”), Peter Rainman (“La Voie Sacre”) and Wolfgang Flur (“A Madman’s Flash – Krieg” of which he wrote the lyrics). As lyrics, they used Original war poetry written by: Wilfred Owen, Adrien Bertrand, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ludwig Ganghofer, Kurt Tucholsky, Roland Leighton, Charles Sorley and inspired words from Fenella Tillier. Musically, we have spoken word on a background based on piano improvisations mixed with sound effects and drones. The second time I listened to the album, I had the impression to be able to listen to the feelings and the noises that the people that lived that horrible experience felt and made. It’s like I had the chance to put my ear at their doorstep, just to be able to get glimpses of their lives. Released in a limited edition of 300 CDs in digipack with booklet and four facsimile WW1 postcards, the release is also available in various packages including extra merchandise such as usb bullet memory sticks/ badges/ t-shirts/sandbag and fake barbed wire. You can check and purchase it here.

Attrition – Millions of the Mouthless Dead
Ultra Mail Productions, UMP 038
CD/Digital/USB Drive 2015



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