21 Sep 2020
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Murmur Tooth - Album Review: A Fault In This Machine

20 Mar 2020 // A review by Tom Ashman

Murmur Tooth is the brainchild of NZ musician and producer Leah Hinton. As founding member and guitarist for metal band El Schlong she has toured Australasia and Europe for many years, eventually moving to Berlin. It is from her DIY recording setup in her home that she has created the latest release: A Fault In This Machine.

A moody and enchanting atmosphere permeates the whole album along with somewhat of an Eastern-European sound blending with the more straightforward indie/alt vibe. There is some very interesting instrumentation throughout keeping the sound ever evolving. Leah Hinton has made full use of the range of instruments and virtual instruments available to her. The album has fantastic weight and texture to it. An almost mythical sense of importance to its dark and exciting themes. The creative freedom gained from creating an album from the ground up is evident. She says herself that the album was made with "DIY attitude, Perseverance and YouTube tutorials." This ability to dream up a sound and work out how to make it gives a liberated and thrilling feel to the music.

It is difficult to pidgin-hole the sound of A Fault In This Machine it seems to explode beyond the boundaries of traditional genres. It invokes many of the finest experimenters in music and it is essentially an alternative album, alternative to what it is delightfully hard to say!

There are certain strains of Bowie that seem present in the very make-up of the album. Perhaps the location of recording adds to this influence. There is also a familiar kind of Kurt Cobain-ish quality in some of the vocal delivery, a growl that is not at all derivative yet captures something of the same feel. Also, the sometimes surprising melodic and harmonic structures abound with creativity and flexibility. This too displays an influence of grunge and alt music from the 90’s. The punk ideal of being able to play with the very nature of western harmony, tweaking notes outside the scale and pulling apart the diatonic chord modal to achieve that unique atmosphere of slight dissonance that is a hallmark of musicians who like to think outside the box and eschew the templates.

Weak Knees is a particularly interesting track on an album made up entirely of interesting tracks. Rhythmically it has a European folk feel with the haunting melodies swimming across the murky soundscape of synth and guitar. It also contains one of the most memorable lines form the album. "We’re all sleeping on graves, of bones and nitrates".

There is a beautiful gothic feel to Slip away. The bass line with its stops that leave the track floating suspended in air is truly awesome. It is almost a cliché to say but, the spaces between the notes really are important and can change everything. That contrast between bass boom and silence is sonically incredibly compelling. Aside from this, the lyrics and melody flow particularly well and the descending motif near the end played with some kind of organ or accordion sound really lifts the piece. It is always a joy to hear something like that which makes an already great song even better, adding the little extra motif at the end when the track could have stood easily without it shows a real deliberate sense of composition and delicate care taken to produce something truly sublime.

Memory The lead single from the album is another chillingly beautiful track. The trumpet sound and the plinking nylon guitar do a great job of lending the track a Latin sound. The vocal melody is stunning and the delivery nuanced and heartfelt. The track has a ghoulish quality that is slightly operatic, it wouldn’t be out of place in a Tim Burton film. Lyrically the words fit together and around each other very pleasingly and there is a dualistic quality between the verse and chorus voices, like two characters in conversation.

The final song These Days wonderfully wraps up the album. Contrasting with much of the feel of the other tracks it has a sunny Sunday morning quality to it, although it still has a backbone and a tinge of melancholy. It adds a great dimension to the album and again is a good example of how well thought out an album this it.

A Fault In This Machine really hangs together as an album. The listener is drawn in to a meticulously detailed and well written world of horror and beauty. The variety of sound is unparalleled on most indie albums. The experimental nature of Murmur Tooth’s sound keeps every second interesting and laden with fresh emotion and imagery.

It is a hugely visual album that is all about atmosphere and is not afraid to disturb the listener. It is admirable to see a musician create such an immersive and at times unsettling sonic experience. It takes real passion and hard work to build something like this and to do it so effectively and so thoroughly. It really feels like Murmur Tooth goes the extra mile to realise her creative vision. A vision that is stark and strange, beautiful and unnerving.

A Fault In This Machine is no mere collection of songs. It is a whole, brilliant concept, an expansive and expressive work of Dada-operatic art. There’s a thread that ties all the songs together, yet they also stand on their own as doomy-gothic vignettes. Windows showing the artist’s perspective of the gloomy spectral qualities of the world. In her own words: “…not for elevators, not for dancing.”

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Murmur Tooth

Murmur Tooth is the songs of musician and producer Leah Hinton - dark and cinematic, not for elevators, not for dancing. She loosely describes her genre as “doompop”.

Leah grew up in rural New Zealand playing classical piano and wanting to be a doctor. At 15 she heard Nirvana’s Bleach album and everything changed. She began teaching herself guitar and decided to study music instead of medicine. At university she formed avant-metal band El Schlong, then spent the next 10 years touring around Australasia and Europe.

Leah eventually settled in Berlin, Germany, where she became fascinated by the possibilities of the recording, producing and mixing process as an extension of the creative songwriting process. She built herself a home studio and started making music. She also makes her own music videos and imagery.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Murmur Tooth

Releases

A Fault in This Machine
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Dropping Like Flies
Year: 2017
Type: EP
The Room EP
Year: 2016
Type: EP

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