Rachel Sermanni is one of Scotland’s most revered indie-folk songwriters of the last decade. Her ability to make ordinary moments in life extraordinary through her music, like coffee machine breakages or bare feet on wooden floors, has garnered praise far and wide among the UK music press, seeing her hailed by some as “one of Scotland’s finest songwriters.”
But with her new EP Swallow Me, things are a little different. The looming spectre of motherhood was a test for Sermanni’s spirituality that she’d never experienced before. Previous to her pregnancy, Sermanni enjoyed a life lived at play. She traveled the world, created boundlessly, and enjoyed the romances that came her way. On the EP, she mourns that way of life, fearing a future where she cannot follow her whims so easily whilst also acknowledging the choices she’s made.
“The thread that weaves most clearly throughout this collection is one of letting go,” Sermanni said in a press release. “Jellyfish go where the current flows. It takes courage to be passive. If you can accept everything, you can embody the jellyfish.”
Opening with the title track, the EP’s core themes of acceptance are at their strongest as Sermanni’s spirit wholly embodies the jellyfish, allowing itself to flow with the changing tides of her life: “It was never a mistake / I was always gonna make / The right road to take… / Was there all along.” Tinges of Phoebe Bridgers poke through the track’s minimal yet attention-grabbing arrangement, while the inclusion of subtle strings evoke homely images of a fiddle player tucked in the corner of a cosy Hebridean bar on a stormy night.
“Brighton House” displays Sermanni’s experience as a songwriter through its elusive intricacies. Irregular drum rhythms and lyrical phrases mix with subtly cushioned vocal harmonies and the woody twang of a double bass to give the track its intimate character, warmed further by the inimitable sound of Fender Rhodes keys.
Coming in at just under six minutes, “Travelled” is the EP’s longest and most melancholic track. Sermanni’s vocals are melismatic; her oohs and aahs are evocatively eery, while her distinct vocal vibrato is expertly measured to a level that Laura Marling would often exude in a similar vein.
This impressive vocal vibrato carries through to the EP’s concluding track, “Love My Love.” Initially, Sermanni gazes forlornly at her love, who is bound for travel in the same way she once was. But through her repeated pleas to “let go,” her spirit of acceptance returns once more.
Through the power of acceptance and surrender, Rachel Sermanni has produced an EP that not only continues to distinguish her as one of Scotland’s finest songwriters, but also illustrates her depth of character as an artist, mother, and human being.