Sunday, May 24, 2020

Album Review: Murmur Tooth - A Fault in This Machine (2020)

Well … this is a genuine grower. A slow burning album release from mid-March which I’ve been absorbing during lockdown and (now) beyond …

Murmur Tooth is Leah Hinton, a Berlin-based New Zealand musician, and although there were a couple of earlier Murmur Tooth releases (EPs) dating back to 2016, A Fault in This Machine is Hinton’s first full-length solo outing.

It feels a little genre-less. In fact, it is impossible to impose any sort of accurate label on it. Something that lazy reviewers (like yours truly) tend to rely on being able to do. Which means I’ve found myself returning to it more often than I otherwise might have, with repeated attempts to fully grasp it. Which has ultimately resulted in me falling a little more in love with it each time. 

I'm tempted to stick the “intimate chamber pop” tag on it. Even though it is more than that, and not really that at all. So it is probably easier to tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t a rock album. It never gets loud. Which is surprising when you consider Hinton’s former life as a rock guitarist in a couple of touring “metal” bands. And it isn’t even a pop album in any conventional sense.

It’s way more challenging than any of that. All of these tunes - nine of them, nearly 32 minutes’ worth - feel intensely personal. Deep, heartfelt, and intimate. A bit gloomy, even. With Hinton baring her soul over the top of meticulously crafted pieces of music, incorporating guitar, piano/keys, what appears to be cello, and all manner of delicate instrumentation. With a sprinkling of fairy dust added to the production. She draws the listener in so close, with clever, and often self-deprecating lyrics, that it is almost impossible not feel like a reluctant voyeur (at times).

In fact, that is exactly what it is … it’s the most uneasy listening “easy listening” album you’re likely to hear all year.

Highlights: the title track, which opens the album, plus ‘Weak Knees’, ‘Rain Rain’, ‘Slip Away’, ‘Early Train’, and ‘Memory’. But there’s not really any filler. 

Leah Hinton: “I wrote, recorded, produced and mixed the album in my little apartment in Berlin. I've spent the last few years upskilling myself as a ‘DIY fullstack musician’ - it's amazing what you can teach yourself these days. All the songs and music videos are 100% DIY and are a testament to perseverance, YouTube tutorials, and good friends who like to help. This album is all my lost and all my love laid out in hertz and decibels, and has been my sense of purpose through a time adrift. I hope you like it.”

You can buy A Fault in This Machine here.

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