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iamthemorning - Lighthouse CD (album) cover

LIGHTHOUSE

iamthemorning

 

Crossover Prog

3.95 | 251 ratings

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BrufordFreak
5 stars The young duo of classically trained musicians from St. Petersburg, Russia, Gleb KOLYADIN and Marjana SEMKINA, are back again with their third album (not including an EP and live recording) since 2012, this one enlisting the capable help of seasoned veterans Gavin HARRISON on drums, Colin EDWIN (PORCUPINE TREE) on bass, and Canadian Vlad Avy on guitar. They even got RIVERSIDE's Mariuz DUDA to contribute a vocal to one song! The most striking difference in the feel and sound of this album comes in a shift back toward the classical music sounds and structures that made their debut album such a striking and refreshing surprise to the music world. I am not sure if this shift back is due to fan response to their more rock-oriented second album, Belighted, or their own gut feelings, but surely the choice of hiring the engineering talents of Tori AMOS-experienced Marcel Van LIMBEEK and Neil PICKLES for the mixing and mastering helped. The KSCOPE connection is great, and the studio recording and production is amazing, but I like this 'new' return to their original sound much better, and I'm sure the production has something to do with that. Gleb's classically-influenced piano playing is prominent throughout the album--which is a strength--especially if you've seen some of the videos of their live performances: iamthemorning music is very powerful when it is broken down into the acoustic versions in which they were composed.

1. "I Came Before the Water, Part I" (1:41) opens with rippling stream water sounds before Marjana's angelic voice enters in her upper registers, announcing her folk-mythic presence while being accompanied only by orchestral strings and quiet electronic keyboard. Awesome start! I am excited! This sounds like a very mature, very composed, very centered iamthemorning. (9/10)

2. "Too Many Years" (5:10) is a piano and orchestra supported song which is notable for Marjana's layering of multiple vocal tracks of her own voice in several parts for some harmony support to her lead--to amazing effect. I can't remember hearing her do this with such great outcome before! How she has grown and matured! The contributions of bass, drums and strings are wonderfully enriching to the mood and the late arrival of the double-reed French bombard is awesome. Great song. (9/10)

3. "Clear Clearer" (4:35) opens with eery background noises, electric bass, woodwinds and electric keyboard establishing a mysterious musical foundation. At 0:45 Marjana joins in with a more powerful (but not dominating) version of her voice. After another 45 seconds hand drums, piano, and other metallic percussives bring up the decibels level a bit. This is the first occasion on the album in which I am reminded of the waltzy song construction style that was so joyfully present on the iamthemorning debut album, ~. Soloing electric guitar takes front and center in the final stretch over Marjana's whispering vocalizions panning right and left in the background, though all instruments eventual fade and drop out to allow for a charming little woodwind finale. Brilliant song! Great, memorable melodies! (10/10)

4. "Sleeping Pills" (3:44) opens with Marjana's angelic voice holding these amazing notes, singing like an angel straight into one's soul, with some simple piano chords arpeggiating beneath. Background vocals--(Marjana's)--join in as singular classical instruments also make their presences known as the chorus begins. Then, with the second verse we are treated to a JOHN TOUT-like piano solo and haunting background violin solo just before the Perezvony Choir enters to perform its chant-like magic. Stunning! Hand drums, piano, fretless bass, and drum kit join and gradually build in intensity to the song's (IMO, premature) end. Gorgeous! And so refreshingly ingenious. (10/10)

5. "Liberetto Horror" (2:14) has a kind of cabaret-burlesque feel to it--frolicking piano, sexy vocals--only the background vocals and flutes and, later, strings, shift us away from this stage-like tease extravaganza. But it's too late: Marjana and Gleb have long ago seduced me. Fun song! (9/10) 6. "Lighthouse" (6:19) opens with a kind of SATIE/CLAUDE BOLLING-like jazzified classical piano speeding up and down the keyboard before Marjana's whispery voice enters front and center (singing right into my ear! So intimate it makes me blush! Only KATE BUSH has been able to effectively do this before. As a matter of fact, the KATE BUSH comparisons should consider as the piano and voice combination is strikingly similar to a few of Kate's bare bones piano and voice song styles). At 3:55 the duet format ends as strummed guitars, strings, harp, drums, bass and background vocals join in- -eventually giving center stage to a beautiful if less-forward-than-we're-all-used-to vocal by RIVERSIDE's Mariuz DUDA. When you know his voice is coming, you expect some heavy, dramatic shift, but instead the vocal and song play out very smoothly, almost soporifically. The amazing first half makes this song a timeless classic, a master class in classical folk duet; aside from the wonderful wisps of background vocal work (by multiple tracks of Marjana and some Mariuz), the second half is a little too mellow and monotonous. I feel the anticipation (and expectation) for something more emotional, even bombastic. It could've been better but it's still amazing. (Is that possible?) (9/10)

7. "Harmony" (5:19) is an instrumental that has a wonderfully symphonic feel that is quite strongly reminiscent of John TOUT-era RENAISSANCE. John HACKETT-like flute solos, tuned percussion, and, eventually, full rock band and solo electric guitar grace this gorgeous song. (No offense, Marjana, but Gleb has the potential for a solo album/career.) (As do you!) (10/10)

8. "Matches" (4:18) is the first song on the album which opens with a very familiar feel and style--fast-moving piano fingering with Marjana's delightfully acrobatic voice dancing a bit too far back in the mix (I've always wished her voice to be a little more front and center, a little more over the piano in the mix). Switch to electric piano is interesting, but then back to grand piano as the drums and fretless bass of Gavin HARRISON and Colin EDWIN, respectively, take prominence (though only for less than a minute before the song fades out). (8/10)

9. "Belighted" (3:20) opens with Marjana's delicate voice singing with the accompaniment of only a harp for the first verse. Glockenspiel (electronic keyboard?) and background voices join in for the second verse. Then full strings orchestra makes their entry for the chorus and successive verses. Enter bass, hand drums, and woodwinds and what a magical weave of dreaminess we have just before Gleb's piano and electric guitar take the fore ground in some nice counter-melody play. Wow! I don't want it to end. This band, these songwriters are at the very top of their game!!! (10/10)

10. "Chalk and Coal" (4:57) is a dramatic, almost Broadway show tune-like composition that contains a strain of spoken vocals that are treated to sound like whispered or muted radio samples throughout the background of the song. It's brilliant!--as are the trumpet soli in the second and fourth minutes. Electric guitar I also love the decision to have a long fadeout with Gleb's jazzy piano riffs repeated over and over while only being accompanied by a flanged percussion hit as time keeper: Simple, bold and powerful. Incredible! (9/10)

11. "I Came Before the Water, II" (2:56) is an incredibly emotional near-a cappella performance by Marjana-- the only instrumental support coming from a very slow build of orchestral strings that begins in the second minute--just as Marjana shifts her singing into a very high octave (she opened the first verse of this reiteration of the album's opening song & lyric in a mid-range voice). The song closes with the same water sounds from the opening song. Stunning! Utterly gut-wrenching! And haunting! (in a good way) (10/10)

12. "Post Scriptum" (2:44) is the album's finale in which Marjana's voice is used to wordlessly sing the song's Russian folk melody in tandem with strings and woodwind while Gleb tickles the ivories and Colin and hold their steady beat behind. Haunting. (10/10)

In my humble opinion, Gleb and Marjana have come out of their shell, into their own state as mature butterflies, to fulfill the amazing and unique potential they exploded onto the scene with back in 2012. The return to piano- and "classical folk"-based sound styles is much welcomed but more, the display of ingenious musical ideas is made felt throughout each and every song--so many choices in structure, sound and restraint that only masters of their craft can ever achieve. And yet, they are still so young! With their confidence and creative beasts released; I can see a long string of masterpieces in iamthemorning (or Gelb Kolyadin and Marjana Semkina)'s long and illustrious career(s).

Without hesitation, this is a five star masterpiece of progressive rock music, essential for any prog lover's music collection. Marjana and Gleb are focusing their energies on giving attention to the under-attended ills of those suffering from psychological illness, so, for those of you with a friend or loved one with some mental illness, this album might just be a perfect balm ... or tonic. Compassionately conceived and intended, Beautifully rendered, this is music for healing and wholeness.

BrufordFreak | 5/5 |

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