An intimate, meditative EP of thought-provoking songs.
Rachel Sermanni follows a path worn by other Scottish singers like Karine Polwart and Kim Edgar in taking a basic Joni Mitchell template and giving it a Celtic spin. Like both those other artists she makes what could be a formulaic approach highly individual.
Her first release since ‘So It Turns’ in 2019 this E.P, according to the press “finds her sitting with all the thoughts and emotions that arose during that period – the doubts, the mourning of her past life and the fear of the unknown. It’s something very obviously missing from the central narrative told about pregnancy”. Acknowledging that pregnancy is not always an overwhelmingly positive experience for some women makes for thought-provoking listening. The focus has been on the lead song ‘Swallow Me’, we featured the video in April, but the other three songs are as strong or stronger. ‘Brighton House’ uses a Wurlitzer piano and double bass to counterpoint the words where ‘Swalllow Me’ used a more obvious pedal steel guitar. Her words are worth the highlighting. The key line in ‘Brighton House’ “I never knew you long enough to really let you go”.
Fin Greenall’s electric guitar on ‘Travelled’ changes the dynamic again. A near 6-minute song that winds its way through a landscape more Prairie than Scottish hills. Sermanni calls this song “dark night of the soul situation”. The final song ‘Love My Love’ starts from a sequenced bass line, this turns into an impressionistic piano-based song that is the best of the four on offer here.
For such a musically varied E.P. there is a thematic unity here that is mostly down to Sermanni’s voice. Elements of Polly Harvey and Tori Amos as well as folk influences gives her something unique in a current world of sometimes rather identikit female singers. Another quote from her press sums up the E.P. well. “She relied heavily on her spirituality during this period – sitting with each thought and riding them wherever they took her. As she says, “it takes courage to be passive”. And from that, she was able to consciously untangle and realise that becoming a mother was her intended path.” While ‘Swallow Me’ doesn’t feel in the least bit passive there is a stillness at its heart, particularly ‘Love My Love’ that is enticing and brings you back for many listens.