Rachel Sermanni’s live performances seem so effortlessly crafted, which means it’s no suprise that Under Mountains boasts intricate arrangements and pristine production. With hints of Nerina Pallot in her vocals, Karine Polwart in the musical delivery and Laura Marling in the lyrics, it draws you in from start to finish offering a range of subtle shifts along the way.
Whilst opener Breathe Easy is a delicate entry to the album, for me it’s Waltz which really benefits from the studio production. Transporting you to an old fashioned ball room with it’s subtle instrumentation, the addition of vocals from Admiral Fallow’s Louis Linklater Abbott blend with Rachel’s giving the track extra depth, whilst the string heavy ending adds poignancy to the closing line ‘I waltzed with you in dreams’.
Re-titled Sea Oh Sea (formerly The Pirate Song) loses little with it’s change in name, still containing obscure lines which highlight the complexities of her lyrical content. As she sings ‘I am not safe here, pull me from Kansas’ in Black Current I can’t help but feel this surmises the album. Littered with abstruse lyrics, listeners will in no doubt find themselves being pushed by this reference to The Wizard of Oz to continue wondering where reality and fantasy begin and end.
It’s not just the lyrical content which marks this album apart, it’s also the combination of Rachel’s adaptive vocals and the continual shifting musical arrangements. Though cohesive as an album, each song contains it’s own signature styling and offers diversity. Whilst on The Fog this translates to frenzied moments interspersed with calm, on Bones there’s an almost sinister edge and it’s here that the percussion and strings really end up with a life of their own, fighting with the vocals for attention and drawing you further down the rabbit hole.
‘The doctor says I have to wear a jacket, but as the darkness falls I see this light, it’s burning at the fog and I’ve followed ever since’ she sings on Ever Since The Chocolate and whether autobiographical or not, I’m thankful that she did make her way through the haze even if it’s a metaphorical one. From the softer lullaby moments in Sleep, to themes of loss in Marshmallow Unicorn, it’s an album which catches you unaware and draws you into the depths of the imagery. Allowing the album to linger like a nostalgic black and white photograph long after it draws to a close.