Iamthemorning are undoubtedly one of the best newcomers to the Prog scene of recent years. A duo comprising Marjana Semkina on vocals and Gleb Kolyadin on piano and keyboards, they have won many fans, received plaudits and gained great respect amongst their peers. It’s easy to see why this is the case. Semkina possesses an angelic, yet powerful, voice – not unlike Kate Bush in her earlier days. Kolyadin is an exceptionally talented player with a mastery of a range of styles (as his solo album earlier this year demonstrated). With the promise of a new album to appear next year, Ocean Sounds whets the appetite nicely and provides an excellent revision to some of the finest moments from their first three albums.
Ocean Sounds is a recording of sessions performed in a seaside studio on the remote Norwegian island of Giske. The two-disc package furnishes the listener with a CD of the audio and a Blu-Ray of the performances, interspersed with stunning shots of the views in and around the studio and some lighter moments from the musicians. I should point out that the songs themselves are uninterrupted. The Blu-Ray studio film runs to about an hour, the CD to about 50 minutes. The audio release is also available on LP.
The remote setting is both gorgeous and haunting in a fashion that suits the band’s songs perfectly. There is a beauty to this remoteness, both melancholy and serene, and the intimacy of the moments shared with the band fits the overall mood very well. The viewer feels as though they have been transported to the studio to watch a private performance. Of these vignettes, I particularly enjoyed one exchange between Semkina and Kolyadin where they discussed the arrangement for Touching II.
The performances themselves are superb. I attended Iamthemorning’s gig at Bush Hall last year and was struck by how much fuller the sound was live and noticed subtle changes to the songs which were part of their natural evolution since they were originally recorded. Ocean Sounds captures these changes well and the production values are magnificent, as fans have come to expect. Semkina and Kolyadin are accompanied by violin, ‘cello, bass and drums and the balance between the six-piece is faultless. Credit must be given to their fellow musicians, Pestka, Lagraviere, Franklin and Carson and also to producer Vlad Avy.
The setlist includes most, but not all, of Iamthemorning’s best songs. Given the setting, there are one or two of the gentler pieces I would have liked to have seen on here – I think especially of Gerda – and I’m sure the band could put together a Mariusz Duda-less Lighthouse too. What we do have are the favourites that make up many of the live sets. Scotland, To Human Misery and Matches are always a great pleasure to listen to and Kolyadin’s playing on Os Lunatum continues to take my breath away. K.O.S remains a perfect set-closer.
The version of 5/4 is worth a special mention here as it really does improve significantly on the original. I love the electric organ on this and, of course, it features the hand claps. Touching II, a track that never fails to bring a tear to the eye and one of my absolute favourites, also differs from its original with Kolyadin’s piano and organ accompanying the strings.
Anyone interested in this release for the studio film will find plenty to enjoy. As far as the audio is concerned, it will undoubtedly please the fans and it’s a great introduction to some of Iamthemorning’s best songs for those who do not have any of their previous albums. The Blu-Ray also features an acoustic track called Blue Sea which will surface in its completed version on the next album; it’s a delicate number, and novel for featuring Semkina on acoustic guitar. If I have one minor gripe about this release, it’s that this is the only new song (albeit a demo) and it doesn’t feature on the audio CD. However, this small matter certainly doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of another fine release.
On Ocean Sounds, Iamthemorning do what they do best, transport the listener to somewhere beautiful. On this occasion, it is the idyllic setting of Giske and, having watched the studio film, I can honestly say I can’t think of a location more apt.
01. Inside (3:30)
02. Scotland (3:37)
03. To Human Misery (4:05)
04. Romance (2:57)
05. 5/4 (3:12)
06. Touching II (3:53)
07. Os Lunatum (3:49)
08. Matches (3:53)
09. Sleeping Pills (3:17)
10. Libretto Horror (2:04)
11. Chalk & Coal (4:06)
12. K.O.S. (5:51)
13. Blue Sea [Blu-Ray Only] (2:42)
Total Time – 46:56
Gleb Kolyadin – Piano & Keyboards
Marjana Semkina – Vocals
Karl James Pestka – Violin
Guillaume Lagravière – Cello
Joshua Ryan Franklin – Bass
Evan Carson – Drums & Percussion
Record Label: Kscope
Catalogue#: KSCOPE608 CD/BluRay | KSCOPE984 Vinyl
Date of Release: 19th October 2018