Iamthemorning was formed in 2010 by Marjana Semkina (vocals) and Gleb Kolyadin (piano). They take their musical influences primarily from Kolyadin’s classical training at the St. Petersberg Conservatory and Semkina’s affection for contemporary progressive bands. The result is something that has been described as ‘chamber-prog’ or ‘neo-classical vocal indie’ music. Both descriptions are apt. The atmosphere of their music is distinctly that of concert music, perhaps an early 20th century piano concerto, or a chamber piece featuring a string quartet and piano as continuo; yet, it is Semkina’s vocals that are front and center. Her voice not unlike a sweet-sounding Tori Amos and it brings both tremendous pathos and considerable beauty to their music.
Iamthemorning’s new album is entitled Lighthouse and it features guest artists Colin Edwin, Gavin Harrison and Mariusz Duda (familiar to listeners of Porcupine Tree and Riverside), but remains focused on the grand piano of Kolyadin and Semkina’s vocals. The album depicts a central character and her struggles with mental illness, ending with her final breakdown. According to KSCOPE’s press release, the narrative of the album is inspired by the lives and works of Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.
The music? It’s excellent. The album’s opener features one of the loveliest melodies iamthemorning has released. Semkina is appropriately allowed to carry the tune with light accompaniment. The track’s ending moments are a series of dissonant broken chords played upon piano which signals to the listener that the apparent serenity of the first track covers more troubling waters below.
It is particularly worth noting the wisdom of getting Gavin Harrison to play drums. Harrison is an intricate drummer who plays with a lighter hand than many a rock drummer is want to do. With iamthemorning, you don’t want a thundering percussion section, because the music is generally subtle, including varied dynamics; crescendos and decrescendos are used to great effect by the band and Harrison is the right drummer to provide rhythm that melds with the rest of the music in the song.
Tracks such as Libretto Horror (not the only track on the album that reminds this listener somewhat of Renaissance) quite adequately display the album’s overall theme of a descent into madness, with a lovely respite to this descent provided in the title-track, in which Mariusz Duda joins in singing with Semkina a song that would have fit in nicely on Riverside’s recent release, Love, Fear, and the Time Machine.
I have been a fan of iamthemorning from the moment I discovered their existence. This album does not abate my enthusiasm for the band: one of the best new bands progressive music has to offer.