Semblance is mature beyond MorMor’s years and yet refreshingly vital, alive, and very much in the now.
Right from the start with his first two EPs (2018’s Heaven’s Only Wishful and 2019’s Some Place Else), it has been clear that MorMor is an old soul. His music — airy, chilled out, unrushed and not overly complicated — has lent the Toronto-based artist (Seth Nyquist to his family and friends) an air of wisdom and world-weariness beyond his young age. It’s no wonder that Semblance, his debut full-length album recorded during the pandemic’s lockdown days, is a studied work in direct response to having the best-laid plans scuttled by a force of nature. Neither bitter nor battered, Semblance is an understated acknowledgement that, as MorMor says on the undulating “Seasons Change,” “Time will never wait / As seasons change / I won’t leave it to fate.”
The plan for Semblance was to rent a stately home in Toronto’s West End neighbourhood, set up a studio in the living room, and work with an engineer from New York to record Semblance while living on the premises. This methodology wasn’t too far removed from the basement recordings of his previous EPs, but moving upstairs and moving into different digs meant that MorMor’s already spacious sound would have more room to expand and evolve. The reality ended up being something very different in early 2020 when his engineer had to return home and could no longer work on the record in person, leaving MorMor to once again go it alone, this time not by choice but by circumstance.
Opener “Dawn” sets MorMor’s signature falsetto tone against music that’s more a tone poem than standard verse-chorus-verse construction. Light breaks a little past the song’s halfway point when the beats drop in. There’s wonder and awe in his voice as he lingers on words and lyrical phrases, repeating them as if trying to articulate thoughts that defy description. The aforementioned “Seasons Change” feels out familiar musical territory for MorMor while upping the ante with stacked vocals before lead single “Far Apart” changes tempo and adds rapping to the vocal repertoire. Similarly, “Days End” is a brisk and funky foray into dance-oriented rhythms and form that feels as comfortable as the soulful pocket MorMor’s known for.
He says “Lifeless” was borne out of a depressive cycle and a song that he toyed with leaving off the final tracklisting. “I was toying with the idea of not having it on the record, but it means a lot to me… I felt if I omitted this, it wouldn’t really reveal who I am as a full, complete person.” I’m not one to beg to differ with the artist, but I will say as key a track as “Lifeless” is, there is so much of MorMor infused throughout Semblance that he was never at risk of under-representing himself. Semblance is balanced and poised. It is mature beyond MorMor’s years and yet refreshingly vital, alive, and very much in the now.
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