Gig review: Rachel Sermanni/Bwani Junction, Edinburgh

Rachel Sermanni's otherworldly lyrics didn't really reach a talkative audience. Picture: Paul Campbell

Rachel Sermanni's otherworldly lyrics didn't really reach a talkative audience. Picture: Paul Campbell

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One of the most singular voices on today’s Scottish scene, the young Highland singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni is also a ballsier chick than her soft-spoken, wide-eyed demeanour might suggest.

Liquid Room

***

A point proved by her punishing gig rate in recent years, and by stormier material like the brilliantly volatile, self-lacerating The Fog, which she belted out here before closing with the bewitching, otherworldly Song For a Fox.

In the main, though, it wasn’t Sermanni’s night: she needs at least a modicum of attention to cast her uncannily beautiful, darkly intriguing spell, and most of the crowd at this charity benefit for War Child were more interested in talking than listening, such that her performance largely became an exercise in gamely soldiering on.

Edinburgh indie/Afrobeat up-and-comers Bwani Junction dealt with the audience volume by cranking up their own to a pitch verging on painful, complete with a sternum-juddering, hair-shaking bass end that was anything but easy on the ears.

Matching the noise level with plenty of onstage energy, they mixed songs from both their 2011 debut album Fully Cocked and its imminent follow-up, including singles Borneo and Civil War.

While their sound mixes an inventive and distinctive array of ingredients, however – including summery, shimmery African-style guitar patterns, reggae, ska, rockabilly, punk – and garage rock – here it amounted to significantly less than the sum of its parts, in parts because vocalist Rory Fairweather’s words were almost wholly drowned by the guitars and drums, but more fundamentally due to a shortage of unifyingly memorable tunes.

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