The third album by Scottish singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni is pitched as ‘folk-noir’, and having previously been signed to Rough Trade and Middle of Nowhere Recordings, she’s gone it alone for this effort.
It’s a bold move, and while it’s predominantly understated and acoustic on the surface, it’s a bold album, too, with a lyrical weight that’s hard to sidestep in favour of the tunes, which are also pretty dark and lugubrious.
‘Put me in the river,’ she sings lightly and liltingly against shuffling drums and dripping piano on the album’s opening track. That’s the title and that’s the refrain, and it’s over six minutes long. It’s hardly a softener, an enticing teaser. Get past it and you’ve got more darkness and more shadow.
This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ or relationships record: ‘I was lying on the floor just after Trump had been voted president, staring despairingly at the ceiling. There was too much news about refugees and the lack of an embrace we offer them. There was the looming Brexit vote too…’ This is the context for lead single ‘What Can I do’, and the backdrop against which Sernammi wrote the album. And as such, it’s an album of the now: bleak. It is pretty, too, but the mood is dark.
It isn’t until ‘Shadowman’, the album’s seventh song, that we get any real levity in the form of a light, airy singer-songwriterly folksy number. It’s but an oasis in a desert of despair. ‘So it Turns’ presents a set of stories and a world view that’s both pragmatic and fearful, and it’s magnificently executed.
And Rachel will be donating a percentage pf the proceeds from there album’s sale to Extinction Rebellion Scotland. It’s heartening to see an artist put what meagre money they may have behind their beliefs, and with a strong, if bleak, album under her belt, Rachel Sermanni is due all the respect.