Rachel Sermanni Under Mountains LP review

And so it’s finally here. The first gig that I went to this year, and the last I heard without being some kind of press, was Rachel Sermanni playing in the Ironworks for her Black Currents EP tour. And a very fine start to a musical year it was. She’s a friend of friends so it’s a bit ridiculous that I’d never met her before. I was there with some of those people though so had a wee chat with Rachel and the girls (she and they are both very nice and had that slight nervousness that all acts of this kind seem to have off stage, probably gone now after the year she’s had though!) and got a hug off her mum. Not many can say that. Mum’s seem to like me.

Anyway before we even get to the music, she’s a very good example for the local acts to not give up. Like I said, she’s had a mental year. Sessions everywhere, festivals galore, UK tour AND abroad tour. Full album out. A couple of years ago she was busking at Bella. Geography isn’t an issue, although as I understand it she did shift to Glasgow. Being from the back of beyond doesn’t mean you won’t be at the front of beyond. Once this album drops tomorrow, although mine arrived a few days early, I can see decently large things in her future. And the same goes for many of you. Keep plugging on, talent wins through in the end, although a bit of luck is generally involved as well. And it’ll last longer if you plug away than it will for the 100 produced acts that get churned out of the system from no where on a never ending basis.

But that has nothing to do with this album. First off I will say if you have the Black Currents EP it’s all on here, but that’s okay. It’s generally the case with up coming artists that the last EP and the first LP cross each other in this fashion. It doesn’t hurt things at all. Under Mountains is a great album from start to finish. Some lovely string arrangements, guitar and bass. Rachel’s voice is towards the lower register for a female artist, throaty and moving. It gives the music a bit of a dreamy quality and a dark edge. Many of the tracks wouldn’t go amiss on a Tim Burton soundtrack at some point. If I’m right in thinking a lot of her stuff is influenced by dreams and the landscape that we all grew up in. And it shows.

Starting off with Breathe Easy we’re eased in to the album. It’s a builder, starting with just a bass and….possibly subtle strings, maybe synth, something in the background. Before that melodic voice comes in. It’s a tune that I remember from that concert 7 long months ago, really beautiful stuff. Subtly complex. Not my stand out tune, I’ll get to that, but definitely one of my favourites.

I’ll essentially just be working through highlighting stuff. This is my first album review, fitting really. If it’s bad that’s why. Plus it’s my first day. Okay, 90th post…

Bones is one of the Burton tunes. A little bit dark, very breathy deep flowing singing. Followed by Waltz, the first single to come from the album. I’ve linked to a million session videos of this one so you are no doubt familiar with it. If not you certainly will be. A departure from the rest in that this is a duet, guest vocals by Louis Linklater Abbott from Admiral Fallow (who also provides percusssion on some of the album). Fitting seeing as it’s about a dance. Bit of a gentle lullaby of a tune, romantic as well. Ever Since The Chocolate made me chuckle when I first heard it. The lyrics are a bit on the bizarre side, the whole tune is somewhat off beat really. Some lovely piano on it (hadn’t mentioned the keys yet, provided by Jennifer Austin).

Next up it’s The Fog. This one is my favourite track on the album, was my favourite on the EP, and impressed me way back when. Lot’s going on, some lovely flowing singing, nice guitar, harmony singing and some nice piano. My favourite bit though? The violins. Little bits of creepy here and there throughout but the song near grinds to a halt at the 2.50 mark. Then one violin…..two violin….three violin….song kicks back in. LOVE that bit, a lot. Credit to Siobhan Anderson, Louise Bichan and Laura Wilke there. You three are damned fine fiddlers.

Little Prayer is more of less the opposite. Just some guitar as backing with some harmonised singing. Stands out from the rest, nice wee tune, solid quality B side on one of the singles (if it isn’t on Waltz already. They still do B sides right?). See Oh See is another I can see getting the Burton treatment. Backing vocals evoke a choir of mermaids. Rachel becomes a pirate at one point. If any of the tunes would evoke a comparison to a certain blonde singer/songwriter that I’m trying to avoid naming it would be this one. Sleep while lovely is quite sad as well. It’s either a song about a doomed relationship, one towards it’s end or one that’s two people who are on different levels and the singer very much WANTS to give in but can’t. OR I’m reading stuff in to it that doesn’t exist. Happens when you have to pull something apart a bit for a review.

Marshmallow Unicorn, that’s a song title I’m not having a stroke. I could just leave it there couldn’t I? Marshmallow Unicorn, thanks for reading. Mental, delightful title. Some lovely guitar on this one. EP title track Black Current follows, no track called Under Mountains which….well makes a change really. Lovely tune, I’ve used that word a lot eh? Bits of it make me chuckle a bit, there’s a wizard of Oz reference in there, the lyrics are somewhat mental. Eggshells is a delicate (funnily enough) lullaby of a tune with some nice subtle touches. And things finish off with To A Fox, a bit weird at the start, a bit….that word again throughout.

And I haven’t mentioned them yet but Joe Rattray provides the Double Bass and Phil Hague is on percussion. You’re both great, there’s some fantastic bass lines and interesting percussion in there. Over all the whole thing is a very enjoyable experience and well worth the wait. You should probably get a copy, it’s available everywhere pretty much. Invernessians can catch Rachel at HMV on the 22nd at 1pm, I fully expect that to be a bit mobbed. If you are one of the lucky people going to Loopallu she’s 3rd last on on Saturday and then in the Ferry Boat Inn as part of the fringe. I really want to grab her and tell her to take a bloody break as she’s been a busy wee bee this year BUT she’s off on tour again.

And finally, if like me you pre-ordered the album you got a lovely piece of art work. I assume they’re all the same but just in case they aren’t here’s mine. Now go grab a copy, I expect this one will do rather well.

I made it the whole way through without making a Laura Marling comparison. YAY! Ah….bollocks. It’s fitting, but also not. They’re distinct from each other, particularly from the direction that Laura seems to have headed in with her latest album.

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