Review Summary: A beautiful album of classically inspired progressive folk music.
Classical music influences can be found in many forms of modern popular music. Performers from a wide range of backgrounds have incorporated instruments usually found in an orchestra into their arrangements in an attempt to lend their sound an individualistic quality. This has of course been quite prevalent in the world of progressive rock but there are examples of acts from many other genres who have followed this approach to some degree or another. Iamthemorning, formed in 2010 and hailing from St. Petersburg in Russia, seem to be approaching things from the opposite direction. These guys have all studied classical music at higher education level and are attempting to incorporate popular music into their traditional sound.
When classical musicians attempt to embrace popular musical forms the results can often be risible. Images of photogenic female prodigies prancing around with a violin to the backing of some awfully banal soft rock immediately spring to mind. Iamthemorning are thankfully light years away from this caricature. They describe themselves as a neo-classical progressive folk band, which fits the music they produce quite accurately. This oddly entitled debut album, "~", is an extremely accomplished set of some quite beautiful classical folk songs interspersed with small instrumental interludes. The closest comparison that could be made for their music would be the work of Kate Bush. Indeed, the lead singer, who sings in perfect English, has a voice that isn't too far removed from that of Kate's; furthermore, the music is dominated by the sort of lilting piano melodies that permeated some of her work. The album opens to the sound of seagulls and a beautiful multi-tracked vocal harmony which blends into the Beethoven influenced piano passages which dominate the soft and mournful "Inside". There is a delicate wintry feel to this song, which is an atmosphere that infuses the whole album. One of the stand-outs is the beautiful "Circles" with its infectious piano melody, dulcet string section and touching lead vocal. The aforementioned instrumental interludes serve admirably to aid the flow of the album as a whole and imbue a stream of conciousness feel to proceedings. Other highlights include the beautiful "Touching II" with its melancholy cello passages and echoed plucked violin and the ethereal "Scotland" which is about as close as the band come to constructing a song with a standard verse and chorus structure on the whole album.
As mentioned before there is a cold and wintry aspect to the music, but it also has an engaging and intimate quality. The standard of musicianship is high but the album has not been crafted as an excuse to show off; in fact this is very easy and relaxing to listen to, which belies some of the quite complex arrangements. The melodies are enchanting, the sonic textures are appealing and the whole atmosphere lulls and caresses the senses. Definitely worth a listen for fans of Kate Bush or anyone who is partial to some delicate female vocal led progressive folk.