Kscope – [Release date: 1 April 2016]
Sometimes as a reviewer it’s very difficult to get across just what an album both as beautiful and as disturbing as this really sounds like – are mere words enough?
It’s like trying to describe the view from the top of a mountain – it’s beautiful yet often tempered with savagery and a sense of isolation.
And thus it is here with ‘Lighthouse’ the third studio outing from St. Petersburg duo Iamthemorning comprising the virtuoso Gleb Kolyadin (grand piano, keyboards) and the beautiful, ethereal vocals of Mariana Semkina.
Following on from the duo’s 2013 self titled debut and 2014’s ‘Belighted’ – both of which established the band’s modus operandi of superlative piano lines and other-worldly vocals combining to make music that both soothes and unsettles in equal measure.
They are joined here by progressive rock heavyweights Gavin Harrison (drums) and Colin Edwin (bass) from Porcupine Tree and Riverside main man Mariusz Duda (vocals on one track) – and, trust me, you don’t get those guys on board unless it’s something a bit special.
The concept of the album is the decline of the central figure due to mental illness (indeed the album is dedicated to the subject and anyone who has suffered).
This concept is realized by the fragile beauty of Semkina’s vocals counteracted by occasional sinister changes of key and the dextrous use of ‘The Devil’s Interval’ – a technique used by musicians to inject disquiet into the seemingly benign flow of the music.
And it works spectacularly.
Semkina’s voice is a beautiful thing – a cross between Kate Bush and Tori Amos – that swoops, cajoles and thrills as it intertwines with Kolyadin’s insistent, brooding piano lines to almost overload the senses and nail the music into your subconscious.
This is evidenced on tracks such as ‘Too Many Years’, ‘Sleeping Pills’, the oddly titled ‘Belighted’ (the title of their previous album) and ‘I Came Before The Water’, but reaches its peak on the title track where Duda’s vocal acts as the perfect counterpoint to Semkina.
Elsewhere Kolyadin’s consummate piano work turns tracks such as ‘Libretto Horror’, ‘Matches’ and ‘Post Scriptum’ into masterpieces.
The album’s concept is nailed in ‘Chalk And Coal’, with its sinister piano motif, disturbing background voices and distant trumpet alongside lyrics such as “I know this disease will not set me at ease, I am rotten inside, I’m not pure”. Heavy stuff – yet…
…the whole thing is a fabulous amalgam of shimmering, fragile and occasionally strident vocals set against exceptional instrumentation that has the power both to uplift and upset at the same time – a rare combination, but then this is one of those rare records that has the power to affect.
Not an easy listen, but great things seldom are. *****
Review by Alan Jones
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Power Plays w/c 14 August 2017
MOLLIE MARRIOTT Broken (Amadeus Music)
BLACK CAT BONES Seen Better Days (indie)
ORESTEA Welcome To Surviville (indie)
MARTINA EDOFF Champions (AOR Heaven)
GHOSTS OF SOCIAL NETWORKS If This Isn’t Love (indie)
THE BOTTOM LINE I Still Hate You (indie)
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12:00-13:00 NEWMAN Aerial (AOR Heaven)
14:00-16:00 BRUCE COCKBURN Bone On Bone (True North Records)
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