Even twenty plus years on, Murmur is still as hauntingly evocative as it was on its release. The novelty of the sound has diminished with the passage of time, but the details still compel -- the subdued, echoing vocals at the beginning of Pilgrimage, the backwards guitar in Perfect Circle, the strange instrumental bit between Shaking Through and We Walk, even the eerie images on the album cover. Niimi's book is a unique in-depth look at the the Murmur recording sessions, and the environment that gave birth to it. It is utterly indispensable reading for anyone touched by the album, or the band.
Niimi is at home in the recording studio, and provides a blow by blow account of the production details. I'd recommend reading it as you listen to the album - details buried in the song will emerge that you hadn't notice before. Throughout, we get a sense of the band's breathtaking originality and willingness to take risks. Buck and Stipe's contributions are well-known, but Niimi highlights the unique contributions of less obvious figures. Mitch Easter's production flourishes are all over the album, and are responsible for much of its unique, timeless quality; Easter and Don Dixon's song sequencing gives the album a strong, novelistic flow; and Bill Berry emerges as the unsuing genius of R.E.M., as composer and multi-instrumentalist.
I've read a number of books in the 33 1/3 series, and to my mind they should all be like this one. When you love an album, you want to get into it as deeply as you can. Niimi's meticulously-researched, vividly written work says all that needs to be said about the album and its unique place in rock history.