iamthemorning – The Bell
Baroque Pop | Progressive Rock
All bands aim to leave their mark, and many succeed in doing so. Far fewer however can truly claim to be unique. Russian duo iamthemorning are one of the most delightfully distinctive acts of recent years that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across. With Gleb Kolyadin’s elegant classical piano style, Marjana Semkina’s angelic vocals, and the pair’s penchant for sombre subject matter, there is no other band that sounds quite like them. It is a style that they have refined and perfected a little more with each new release, and it sounds better than ever on their latest album The Bell.
A common complaint regarding prog is when band members show absolute mastery of their craft, but in doing so they step on each others toes. There have been a handful of instances across their discography where the duo have been guilty of the same. Gleb’s piano and Marjana’s vocals; each stunning in their own right, but not always gelling together. There are no such worries on The Bell. The two elements are in perfect balance, as though they are one spirit. Where does the river end and the sea begin, where does the night sky meet the stars – so too do the music and vocals almost appear to feed seamlessly into each other.
There are too many great instances of this to mention, and a large part of that is down to the more stripped-back feel of this record which really plays to the pair’s strengths. From the almost blissful embrace of drowning on ‘Blue Sea’, to the quiet horror of being buried alive on ‘Six Feet’, as shown by the stunning album artwork (another of their unique quirks). Tracks like ‘Song of Psyche’, and particularly ‘Black and Blue’, are as heavy as they are delicate. They offer you sparse beauty, but also build a tense atmosphere around it that slowly closes in on you. Like a half-heard whisper in the still of the night, or a faint lantern glow enclosed by oppressive fog. Combined with the beautifully bleak lyricism it feels like living in a world conceived by Edgar Allen Poe.
The record’s only misstep is the opening track ‘Freak Show’. Though this more lengthy composition starts well, it begins to feel more disjointed in the second half. The heavier riffs, sinister brass and hints of Spanish guitar feel very out of place. Not just on this record, but for the band in general, sounding more at home with the likes of Haken or modern day Opeth. By contrast the album’s other lengthy composition experiments but still remains grounded. It has some instrumentation reminiscent of Tubular Bells, and moments where this band renowned for their affinity with the macabre manage to capture all the whimsy and wonder of a Christmas morning or a day at the carnival. The difference being it still has their idiosyncratic iamthemorning stamp on it. And if listening to the rest of the record has taught me anything, it’s that if a song is sealed with their incomparable aura it is a sure sign of quality.