Some artists release live albums in order to pay for a new Ferrari. Others tirelessly labour over them in order to ensure that they fully encapsulate their live performances. Iamthemorning’s Live at the House of Art solidly falls into the latter category. Having been funded solely by a KickStarter project and released independently, this album captures Iamthemorning at the height of their Chamber-Prog glory; ambitious song-writing adorned with mesmerisingly fragile vocals, lush strings, and virtuoso piano work.
Formed in 2010, Iamthemorning is a Russian duo whose music owes as much a debt to Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev as they do to Porcupine Tree and Anathema, and have been slowly but surely growing a loyal fan base, touring and working with their heroes, all the while continuing to hone their crafts. Album opener ‘The Howler’ introduces us to a world of effects-laden vocals and Guildhall-worthy piano scales, before exploding into an onslaught of distorted guitar and AOR drums, only to reinvent itself yet again as a complex pop ballad, a process enhanced by the raw nature that comes with live performances.
Dreamy, yet undoubtedly ambitious, Iamthemorning’s greatest strength lies in their ability to constantly reinvent themselves halfway through their songs. The track ‘Scotland’ lulls you into a false sense of security through pizzicato strings and razor-sharp piano chords, before being completely reconstructed via meaty power chords and jazz-rock bass, whilst ‘K.O.S.’ dispenses with the pastoral balladry at the halfway mark, becoming an athematic rocker in the process. These are songs that were meant to be performed live, and it shows.
Achingly beautiful and never anything but melodic
Nevertheless, despite these changes, the songs remain accessible to even the most committed enemy of Progressive music. Marjana Semkina is possibly one of the most capable singers to emerge in the last few years, with a voice that is able to pair its technical capacity with real emotional resonance. Whilst many gifted singers find it difficult to remain attached to the music, she pours her soul into it, immeasurably enriching it. Likewise, pianist Gleb Kolyadin is able to ensure that his unique keyboard sequences and uncommon time signatures are just as listenable as your favourite four-chord 4/4 pop song. If you need proof, just listen to ‘5/4’, written in, well, 5/4.
Closing off the album is ‘Reprise of Light/No Light’, possibly the finest song on the album. Achingly beautiful and never anything but melodic, the track is a haunting testament to eternity, and with a series of masterful crescendos, thunderous timpani and Wagnerian cymbals, it transforms itself into pure performance art, before receding back towards its basics, a life encapsulated in just six-and-a-quarter minutes.
Live albums such as these demonstrate why we need artists like this. The duo’s haunting and gorgeous song writing, paired with their immeasurable talent, has led to what is easily one of the best live albums of 2015. It is a document that perfectly encapsulates them. Now stop reading this review and give it a listen. You will not regret it.