Iamthemorning, the name deriving from a track on Oceansize’s debut album, is a Russian prog / chamber pop duo from St. Petersburg, Russia, and it revolves around the creative partnership of two persons, Marjana Semkina (vocals and backing guitar) and Gleb Kolyadin (piano/ keyboards). They’re still something of an unknown quantity amongst many prog fans in the UK, although they’ve attracted critical acclaim from many top writers, with their 2016 album, Lighthouse, winning the accolade of ‘Album of the Year’ at the Prog magazine awards.
This album is a mix of styles, with their music drawing from the classics ( Kolyadin being a virtuoso, classically trained pianist ), with touches of folk and electronic, with even a hint of the early seventies Canterbury scene all blended in with Semkina’s love of Prog, and these varied influences gel together to produce a quite delightful, almost unique sound.
The Bell is divided into two parts of five songs apiece, but each song is a story in its own right. Cruelty and the differing ways human beings have of coping with this is the central theme running through the album. The lyrics suggest an inwards journey, taking the listener into the mind of a person suffering from abuse, neglect and open hostility, with the implication being, “for all our technological advances, humankind hasn’t made too much progress in terms of emotional maturity.”
Part one begins with ‘Freak Show’ and, as the album progresses, it’s immediately clear we’re being taken on a voyage through the dark side of human emotions, sung to some quite enchanting melodies and exemplary playing. Marjana Semkina paints some very evocative imagery with her words. ‘Blue Sea’ references someone drowning , “now I go to sleep in waters deep”, and ‘Black and Blue’ portrays someone dying after having been beaten black and blue, while ‘Six Feet’ clearly alludes to a person now in their final resting place. Part two focuses on someone looking back on their life from the other side and how glad they are to be away from it all… in title track ‘The Bell’ Marjana describes the “Grief and nature of human pain, so I am relieved in my grave”. Someone has clearly read her Dostoyevsky.
The Bell is an album which is complex and varied, an album which’ll make you think about what you’re listening to, but also accessible prog influenced rock with a classical input. Marjana’s voice is beautiful, the playing is faultless, especially on tracks like ‘Salute’, and probably only Rick Wakeman could access the classics better.