Built around the permanent nucleus of pianist Gleb Kolyadin and singer Marjana Semkina, for their third album Lighthouse the Russian duo iamthemorniong enlist the services of a number of guest musicians – drummer Gavin Harrison, who features in the latest incarnation of King Crimson, bass guitarist Colin Edwin from fellow British prog rockers Porcupine Tree and additional vocals on the album’s magnificent centrepiece and title track from Mariusz Duda of Lunatic Soul and Riverside fame. Together they explore the outer limits of iamthemorning’s definitive progressive chamber music.
Whilst echoes of epic early 70’s progressive rock music – all shifting tempos, ascending rhythms, swirling mellotrons and jagged guitars – can occasionally be detected on tracks such as ‘Too Many Years’ and ‘Harmony’, iamthemorning jettison much of that decade’s bombast and bravura in favour of something that is altogether more reflective. And they achieve this most delicate sleight of hand through the perfect union of piano and voice.
The former is steeped in the greatest classical tradition. On Lighthouse, Kolyadin’s grand piano was recorded in Mosfilm Studios Moscow, the largest and oldest such location in Russia where soundtracks for some of the most famous of Soviet-era films were recorded. The latter is an expressive instrument that vacillates somewhere between that of Kate Bush, Charlotte Church and Tori Amos; a febrile counterpoint to the piano that captures perfectly a wide range of often conflicting emotions from ecstasy to despair.
The tenderness and eloquence inherent in Marjana Semkina’s voice lends an even greater emotional heft to the album’s central narrative, the chronicle of an individual experience of mental illness. Inspired in part by David Bowie‘s ‘Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)’ – taken from his valedictory album Blackstar – the sombre darkness of ‘Chalk and Coal’ reflects that particular journey’s tragic end. And with it, the song also signals the existential freedom that this powerful and most moving of records contains.
Lighthouse is released on 1st April 2016 through Kscope Records.