THIS WEEK I'M LISTENING TO...IAMTHEMORNING The Bell (Kscope)
Rather like Alice in Wonderland, Russian duet Iamthemorning’s world is a place where nothing is quite as it seems – songs float across an azure sky and voices of angels summon the clouds: yet ethereal soundscapes can turn in a heartbeat to bite the hand that feeds, particularly in the case of inscrutable opener ‘Freak Show’. It’s an album in which beauty and the beast live side-by-side, balanced in exquisite equilibrium. Welcome to ‘The Bell’.
‘The Bell’ is Iamthemorning’s sixth album (their fourth for Kscope) since their entry to the world stage in 2012. As with previous releases, the main players are supported by a clutch of guest musicians (no details on the promo, sorry) who each bring their own particular magic to the ten compositions on offer. The focus though, as ever, is on the seemingly enigmatic duo of virtuoso classical pianist Gleb Kolyadin and charismatic vocalist Marjana Semkina and, despite the impressive contributions of their guests, the spotlight shines firmly on the pair and the musical chemistry that binds them. And, as ever, Kolyadin and Semkina do not disappoint. Although long-term fans will remember ‘Blue Sea’ from its appearance in acoustic form as part of ‘Ocean Sounds’, the rest of the album is wholly new, yet enticingly familiar. Songs like ‘Ghost Of A Story’ and ‘Lilies’ build from simple foundations into grandiose arias: the latter gives Kolyadin the perfect opportunity to display his skills, while Semkina’s delivery on ‘Song Of Psyche’ is as beautiful as you’re ever likely to hear. But given that the artwork (again by Constantine Nagishkin ) is a safety coffin bell – safety coffins being marketed to exploit those who feared being buried alive in Victorian times – it’s no surprise that the album concentrates lyrically on darker themes, with music crafted to match. That’s not to say that ‘The Bell’ is unpleasant – on the contrary, it’s enchantingly accessible and almost whimsical at times, transcending the here-and-now to transport listeners to a place of tranquillity. But there is certainly a sinister side to it, an indication that you never know what’s down the rabbit hole. The seven-and-a-half minute ‘Salute’ is probably the perfect example, starting as a piece of joviality with almost a fairground soundtrack yet by twists and turns evolving into something Anathema might deliver.
‘The Bell’ is a personable album showcasing great songwriting, great performances, and great storytelling. It’s a clever album, an album of rare magnificence, from s band who are truly unique, and should cement Iamthemorning’s reputation as one of the progressive scene’s most interesting and diverse acts.
© John Tucker July 2019