Album Review: Rachel Sermanni – So It Turns

Rachel Sermanni’s third album So It Turns began three years ago in Berlin, when she financed the recording of the 10 songs which make up her new record. Between recording and release, Sermanni has not been idle with her time – with touring, spending a year at a Buddhist monastery in the Scottish borders, and becoming a mother – all occupying her time whilst also working on a plan to release her songs.

As an independent release, Sermanni had been financing everything herself until she was the victim of scammers and unfortunately lost a lot of money. Undeterred she quickly put together a last minute Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of physical copies of her record and the release campaign around it. Surpassing her original goal of £4000, her campaign quickly raised over £15000, which has given Sermanni a new challenge of seeing through all the rewards promised (including hand drawn pictures and hand written lyrics).

With Sermanni’s first record Under Mountains feeling rather like being woven into a fairytale and her second record hitting a grungier ground, where would her third take the listener? The lead single, ‘What Can I Do’, gives us a hint of the previous album with its grungy sound, and is a song that capitalises on Sermanni’s voice which easily transports listeners to another plane.

Several of the songs on the record were inspired by Sermanni’s time spent at a Buddhist monastery, Samye Ling. ‘Put Me In The River’, ‘If I’, and ‘Tiger’ were all inspired by or written during her time there and as such explore similar themes. The uncomplicated arrangement of ‘Put Me In The River’ showcases Sermanni’s strong storytelling ability and warm vocals. ‘If I’ deals with questions she was pondering whilst at the monastery, simply phrased with “If I let this go, would it set me free?” A question I’m sure many people ask themselves. ‘Tiger’, the second single from the record, deals with the question of desire and how Sermanni has been wrestling with the feeling for some time. The song starts with a mellow finger-picked guitar which transcends when a hypnotic beat enters. The song utilises the musicianship of the band that Sermanni put together for the recording (several of whom play jazz in Berlin).

This record has a somewhat country feel with ‘See You’, of which Sermanni said: “This song documents the process of coming to know, and wanting to see, someone who lives on the other side of the world.” Several songs continue this country vibe, including the previously mentioned ‘If I’, as well as ‘Typical Homegirl’, a song inspired by a character Sermanni sketched whilst on the road (she often draws naked female characters). The joy of the song is easy to hear and Sermanni said “My naked ladies are often very sassy which isn’t a side of myself that often gets vented, so this was great fun to write and record.”

With a combination of musical styles, you can see how Sermanni has taken her Scottish folk roots and broadened out her style to include varying elements, to better get across the messages she has. On occasion the record feels a little lost in terms of direction; the songs individually are interesting and the musicianship throughout is very good, but overall the record feels a little disparate. Sermanni’s storytelling is very strong however, and whilst the two singles are quite different in tone to the rest of the record, they are both interesting songs which allow Sermanni’s vocals to shine.

Overall, fans of Sermanni’s previous records will enjoy this one and whilst it won’t set the world on fire, it’s a pleasant enough record to spin.

Ulrike Gotts