Memory –  Murmur Tooth (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3918558583_16The further down this dark, spacious path Leah Hinton takes her solo Murmur Tooth project, the more I love it. Always aware that there is more musical currency in atmosphere and anticipation than bombast and clutter, here she builds a powerful and punchy piece from the bear minimum of sonics. The icing on this rich, dark and bitter sweet cake is the melancholic trumpet that weaves its way through turning a shrouded modern indie song into a twisted, timeless Old World dirge. 

Dealing with the sensitive issue of memory loss, something that at least is being spoken about more and more in the current climate, it instils the conversation with an intimate perspective and a cold dread that comes with the thought that everything that makes up your life, your history, your personality, your very being, could one day drop from your memory piece by piece leaving you anonymous and detached from everything you once were.

As always it is the combination of beauty and terror that Leah captures so elegantly, the tension and drifting atmosphere that floats about the listener as if they themselves were part of a chorus line from a gothic musical. Cold, deep, poignant and reflective but also gorgeous, ephemeral and eloquent. It’s what she does.

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Dropping Like Flies –  Murmur Tooth (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a3002173616_16Much has changed in the Murmur Tooth camp since 2016’s The Room. Now a solo musical vehicle and described by its creative driver Leah Hinton as being “dedicated to the passing of time, to the peeling of memory and to the shedding of skin,” which before I have even pressed play sounds like my sort of thing. But I guess I knew it would be. So if the previous outing revelled in some moments of wide-screen, alt-rock drama, Dropping Like Flies is more intimate, more bruised, more soul searching, that with most of the short-circuiting sonic turmoil removed what remains of the bands sound is something beautiful, stately, darkly majestic and, ironically, more powerful.

A Belly Full mixes an almost music box rhythm with brooding sweeps of cello but oddly enough for a song built mainly on understatement it is actually one of the fuller songs found here as the rest of the album is woven as much from atmosphere and anticipation as it is from notes and beats. I Will Never is a dark waltz between vocals and piano and the short and brilliant Interlude is a celebration, a quiet one at least, of layered harmonies and glitchy, pulsating electronica.

The Accomplice is a fantastic piece of noir-ish minimalism and is the only track to creep beyond the two and half minute mark, which says something about Leah’s ability to convey so much emotion and reflection in the time it would take most writers to get to the first chorus. The album’s swan song is the haunting Of Memory, straight out of the Cave/Ellis emotive music manual and proving that writing minimal music is more than just leaving gaps but understanding the power music still has even when it has moved beyond actually making any sound.

The other piece of advice from the album’s accompanying notes states that it is “not for elevators, not for dancing,” but late night musical rituals in just such claustrophobic environments seems exactly what it is designed for. Let’s make such low key art-attacks the trend for 2018 and this its perfect soundtrack.

The Room – Murmur Tooth – (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2298706426_16A couple of years ago I found myself in the basement of a Berlin bar watching a young band called Mushi Features work their way through a set of charged, intense, doomy rock and riot grrrl sensibility. Bands change, people come and go, the sound evolves but when Murmur Tooth’s new e.p. popped up on my radar, it wasn’t too hard to see the dotted line that connects the two bands.

This four-track release has all the same core ingredients but now the sound is slicker, better defined, more cohesive. It still splices doom-laden grunge with more spikey resonances, 90’s alt-rock with a dark, gothic vibe but there is a latent ferocity that comes not from the speed of the delivery, the dynamic or the volume, but which is less tangible, a primal power that lurks at the heart of the songs, a tribal, shamanistic force which hovers between the notes and in the spaces between the lyrics.

Waste Away in particular sounds like the play out music for a disturbing horror movie, a dark waltz, the last dance, the exit music that takes you from one world to the next, but even the more accessible sound of opener Knees Are Clean feels slightly fractious and unsettling.

Music doesn’t always have to be an easy sell. Challenges are good, comfort zones promote complacency and Murmur Tooth seem to have found a way to combine familiar musical references with a wonderfully new and often unnerving feeling. This is music to play with the doors locked, the lights on and you will probably feel like having a shower afterwards.

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