January 26, 2020

Mariana Semkina is one half of Russian duo Iamthemorning, alongside virtuoso keyboard man Gleb Kolyakin. They’ve been variously described as being either Neo-Folk or Chamber Prog. You pays your money, etc etc .. but whilst they’re still a relatively unknown quantity in the UK with many Prog fans, nonetheless several publications have given their music a stamp of approval, with the duo winning the prestigious Prog magazine award for Album Of The Year for their 2016 release, Lighthouse.

Sleepwalking is not a band release. Following on from 2019’s album, The Bell, this is the debut solo album by Semkina who’s tapped into her recent life experiences to inform and put together a collection of songs which are intensely personal because they derived from real life situations. Talking about the album’s gestation, Mariana stated “ at the end of a dark period, I found myself renewed and with songs too personal to release except under my own name.” Sleepwalking is a compelling hybrid of Folk, classical and baroque pop, and with lyrics which have an emotional impact because they come directly from the heart. The subject matter is occasionally heavy but her style of delivery carries the listener along, and if you think only Leonard Cohen writes songs which wrench at the soul, this album will make you reconsider this view. From the lyrical content, one can only assume her dark place must have been very dark indeed. Is Mariana singing about a doomed relationship ? “I’ve spent the night peeling the skin off my body where you touched it.” “How do I go on living after what you’ve done ?” (Skin). “There’s nothing I regret more than letting you leave me behind.” (Turn back Time). Is Mariana focusing on mortality ? “I know you’ll always be the one to follow me, so let us drown together, and drown in the sea.” (Mermaid Song). Mariana appears to have a fixation
with dying. “I will find release; the soil will cover me in moss and flowers.” (Dark Matter). “Am I sleeping or am I dead ?” (Am I Sleeping). However, Mariana also realises situations will only change if you make the change yourself. “You are your only friend, when everyone else has gone, and you are your only hope, when everything burns.” (Everything Burns).

Whatever, ably assisted by stellar Prog luminaries like Jordan Rudess, Nick Beggs and Craig Blundell, Mariana Semkina has come up with an album of impressive depth, sung with a voice capable of making your heart skip a beat, and there’s real emotional power in the delivery of her message. This is a spellbinding debut album from someone who was voted top female singer in Prog magazine’s 2019 poll, and it’s well worth the effort of taking the
time to grasp its many nuances.