Rachel Sermanni soothes with her whimsical vocals and creates a comforting dreamscape on her latest album, Dreamer Awake, released by Navigator Records on September 15, 2023.
Rachel Sermanni is a singer-songwriter, born in Carrbridge, nestled up north of the Scottish Highlands.
She has her roots firmly planted in the indie-folk scene, and she has been putting out music since 2011, when she released her debut EP on Spotify titled The Bothy Sessions.
Rachel remains in her own lane musically, crossing genre boundaries while staying authentic with her unique voice and poetic lyrics. All of which set her apart from her contemporaries.
This is her fourth full-length album, but she has an extensive back catalogue of music, which includes EPs and albums that feature an abundance of hauntingly beautiful songs.
Dreamer Awake comes after Rachel released three singles, one of which was a track called Big Desire. This was the first song I heard from the album, and I instantly gravitated towards it, loving the familiar but fresh direction I could tell Rachel was heading in with her music.
On the track, Rachel sings of her inner desires using religious imagery and metaphors; it’s driven by an irresistibly funky bassline. It’s a standout on the album for me and one song I listen to often.
Another single Rachel put out ahead of the official album release is a track called Jacob.
Jacob is the name of a therapist who has been helping Rachel deal with the grief she is feeling from a past romantic relationship. Rachel sings, “Jacob makes it simple… makes my sorrow easy to explain,” and by the end of the song, she is left wondering if she truly loved this person, and if she did, she’s telling herself that she never felt “seen.” In other words, she feels like an afterthought, as this relationship lacked honest and open communication.
The final initial single is a track called Killer Line, a beautiful, slow, pensive song in which Rachel continues her healing process from this past relationship. She uses the image of a deer on a track, which is fitting as she grew up within the Cairngorm Mountain range, which has no shortage of wild Scottish fauna. The eerie cello arrangement, paired with Rachel’s haunting voice, works seamlessly together.
Another track on the album called Choosing Me, in which Rachel’s melancholic vocals gently soar and are accompanied by the meandering notes of a piano as she poetically professes that after having time to process the past, she is now able to finally let go of this past relationship.
What is the concept of the album?
While writing the album, Rachel took inspiration for the concept from Scottish author, psychologist, and mythologist Dr. Sharon Blackie, who wrote the feminist novel If Women Rose Rooted. In it, Dr. Sharon Blackie explores the idea of the heroine’s journey, which is in line with Rachel’s style as an artist, as she portrays the image of a wandering traveller, a girl with lots of dreams and big desires.
On the title track, Dreamer Awake, Rachel begins by asking her bandmates, “Everybody okay?” Before she counts them in. Her ghostly vocals are accompanied by her acoustic guitar, piano, drums, walking double bass line, and the distorted sounds of an electric guitar. It’s a spellbinding song and sets the tone for the album.
On another track called In Her Place, Rachel sings of the moon rising, which is an element that she refers to often in her music, singing about the beauty and power of the moon and the connection it has to her dreams.
This lovely track is also about motherhood and perhaps tells of the mother-daughter dynamic between her and her young daughter, Rosa, as Rachel’s voice and lyrics offer comfort and reassurance as she gives her daughter advice from her lived experiences in the quiet stillness between the delicate finger picking of her guitar.
Other tracks, such as Grace of Autumn Gold and Liminal, showcase the menacing dynamic of instrumentals, which pair perfectly with Rachel’s sorrowful voice.
Whereas acoustic-oriented tracks such as True Love Lets Go, Death Mermaids, and the closing track on the album Looking Around, are more reminiscent of Rachel’s early work, as she leans into her folk sensibilities – and I think this is where her music is at its best – as she pulls you in with her enchanting voice and the soft, pleasant sound of her acoustic guitar.
The album has an ominous, overarching presence to it, but by that, I don’t mean that it’s threatening; instead, it offers consolation within the wistful song-writing and atmospheric instrumentals. It’s another gorgeous release from Rachel and one album from 2023 that you should not miss.
Rachel is currently on tour across the UK.
Rachel is currently on her Dreamer Awake tour of the country in eight UK cities, playing in small-scale venues. The tour began at a bar and gig venue called Yes in Manchester on September 19, and it will end at the Summerhall concert hall in Edinburgh on September 29.
Tickets are still available, so grab them now while you still can!