Back in 2011, there was a mini controversy of sorts when Inch Chua (a.k.a. iNCH) penned a Facebook note lamenting the lack of support for local musicians from Singapore. The heartfelt note touched on several problems with society’s limited support for the arts and soon enough caught on with the masses. There were misunderstandings aplenty, especially since several ‘concerned netizens’ resorted to selective reading and taking some of her quotes out of context.
By then Inch had drawn up the next step in her music career, but what might have otherwise been a quiet move to L.A. in order to immerse herself in a more progressive arts community was instead accompanied with a well-publicized debate on the local music scene.
It was on the back of said controversy that Inch started to work on her sophomore effort, Bumfuzzle. The album is a celebration of her musical journey thus far, as well as an amalgamation of her varied influences and experiences.
In Bumfuzzle, Inch embraces a direction that takes her away from her comfort zone. Although packed with her melodic sensibilities, the album is a slight graduation from the acoustic folk sounds on her debut full length release, Wallflower. That said however, she does not stray too far from the delicate guitar work her loyal audiences would be familiar with as most of the tracks on her latest effort seem to have been built upon acoustic melodies. Although layering was utilized in the album’s production, a sonic palette of mainly analog sounds contributed to album’s organic feel.
Opening number, ‘Gaudi’, offers a promising start to the album with its thumping drum pattern and captivating acoustic guitar melody. In her signature, silvery voice, Inch starts the verse rather self-deprecatingly – “Who am I to give advice/ When I’m a guilty sin spender” – before breaking into a spirited chorus. And like the artist the track is named after, the song’s little intricacies gradually get to you – the ascending guitars in the chorus for one provide an interestingly jaunty effect as Inch repeats the one-word refrain, “Good”.
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Considering the tenderness behind ‘Dear Paramour’, the lyrics, which suggest a relationship of a rather clandestine nature – “I don’t want to come over / You’re no innocent company” – might induce a raised eyebrow. Arguably the most memorable track off Bumfuzzle, Inch showcases her powerhouse vocals as she dextrously shifts into the bridge after the second chorus. While the tender tone in earlier verses is still present, there is an undeniable tinge of sadness and desperation as she pushes her voice into falsetto territory – a remarkable display of her musicianship.
The album however, has its ‘kinks’. Perhaps the most glaring of these is the fact that Bumfuzzle is a classic case of the musician’s ‘sophomore release’ complex – whereby the second effort attempts to prove that said musician can do more than the first album suggested. While the album is a commendable attempt to bring together her rock influences and her acoustic roots, at times the two worlds come across as disparate.
Irregardless, with Bumfuzzle, Singapore’s favourite indie princess has (once again) delightfully enchanted her listeners with her songwriting prowess.
02 The Chefalo Knot
03 Quit You
04 Dear Paramour
05 Artful Dodger
06 Lyre Lyre Hearts On Fyre
07 Bumfuzzle (Go Up In Smoke)
09 Old Nine
Bumfuzzle is available for digital purchase across several platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Bandcamp. Physical copies are available exclusively at Inch Chua’s shows.
Special thanks to Inch Chua/Riot! Records for making this review possible.