Never has an album sleeve summed up the contents inside so accurately, both stylistically and in it’s content within. On their third album Lighthouse, Saint Petersburg duo Iamthemorning (Marjana Semkina and Gleb Kolyadin) mix the colours of many different genres to create a stunning canvas – yet with the album cover’s feeling is appropriate to front any one of those borrowed styles (a professional painting with layers of meaning), it’s highly complimentary.
Prog rock is an easily and initially identifiable classification. If not only for the band’s appearances on their forums – Iamthemorning were interviewed on Prog Archives – but through the Russians use of progressive rock instruments (the folk vibe of the mellotron, electric guitar, keyboards), and discipline (long instrumental breakaways, arpeggios, unusual time signatures, detour into jazz idiosyncrasies).
The best example of their journey into this category is the instrumental “Harmony”, a track that begins with forestry sunrise before storming into an enthusiastic guitar solo. The dominance of the piano and it’s multi-personality performances plays a key part in inking the pages in it’s storybook and as the erudite band self-produce their music and ideas with such precision, it makes for an intellectual listen.
From harmless dinner jazz (the kind you’d hear in The Sims Game), to Phillip Glass tranquillity on “Lighthouse“, to the classical integrity of Elizabethan chamber music (assisted by the harpischord, strings, oboe, inventive wooden percussion) on “Matches” to urgent horror movie maliciousness (haunted by strings) on “Too Many Years” and into the world of Elfman and Tiersen through a magical choir and lullaby-inducing xylophone on “Sleeping Pills“.
This is all at the talented fingertips of Gleb Kolyadin. A pianist who was unsurprisingly educated at a prestigious establishment of composers and virtuosos – Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Georgiy Ginovker and Anatoly Zatin are just two of many students that like Kolyadin have embraced an affiliation with chamber music.
With the exception of a brief vocal engagement by the Kolyadin – is there nothing he can’t do? – Marjana Semkina is the lighthouse in the painting, guiding listeners through the dramatic sea of styles with a graceful soprano that’s identical at times to Natasha Khan, whispers like Anja Garbarek, has the gloomy passion of Amy Lee and would feel at home in the symphonic metal scene, whilst her character itself is emotionally drowning.
Proof of this in the lonesome poetry about struggle with a powerful force and finding battling endurance. “I escaped all the prisoner cells./Walking into water, I accept my final death here” from “I Came Before The Water pt.1” (Iamthemorning like to split songs into acts as part of their literature fascination) is contrasted with “This is what they try to bring me, I won’t shut my eyes” from “Clear Clearer”.
With the regular mentioning of a pills and questioning reality, it could be set inside a mental asylum or a metaphorical personal dystopia (reminiscent of the Martin Scorcese film Shutter Island) but with enough ocean-terminology to suggest the possibility of it being a diary written at sea. Whatever the case it’s a suffocating and never-ending paranoia for the protagonist – portrayed by “day passing decade. Waiting for night, waving goodbye” from “Sleeping Pills”.
At times, it’s overwhelmingly gothic with a call for help like on the operatically-named “Libretto Horror“, “I felt the darkness now, am I in hell? / Help me, I can’t breathe, won’t you stay here with me?” but with a slice of adventurous surrealism that would warrant an Alice in Wonderland-esque music video, “I feel so small, now you can’t escape“. Yet Marjana Semkina’s mutli-faceted writing takes another turn by offering hope on the title track with a quasi form of salvation: “light never showed you out this place but I’ve come to show the way”.
Like the album artwork, Iamthemorning’s record Lighthouse teases and toys with perception and purposely leaves mysterious questions in it’s path. A record easily recommendable for the musically curious and storytellers of the palpable and spiritual kind. Lighthouse is out now via Kscope, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Matt Hobbs