Dollboy – Ghost Stations

Ghost Stations by Dollboy

Even with only three hard-to-find releases in circulation the fledgling Second Language label is already setting itself up as one of the safest betting endeavours in the constantly fragmenting music industry casino. Loosely modelling itself on the traditions of the erstwhile singles clubs of Sub Pop and Rough Trade as well as Temporary Residence’s Travels In Constants series – through luxuriantly-packaged limited-edition CD-only albums supplied mainly through a subscription-service – Second Language seems to be tapping into rich seams of creativity that others seem incapable of finding amidst the torrents of music flooding the global village. With the label’s first two releases, the emphasis was upon meticulously mixing and matching – with ‘bespoke’ Tombola collections from Second Language co-founder Glen Johnson’s Textile Ranch project late last year and via the more recent multi-contributor Music And Migration compilation – but this time around the focus has, quite literally, switched directly to one artist’s tunnel vision.

Trading under his Dollboy alias, London-dwelling multi-instrumentalist Oliver Cherer, has with Ghost Stations fashioned a reassuringly uncommercial instrumental paean to the abandoned and once closed underground train stations of London and Berlin, respectively. Whilst the concept may appear somewhat obtuse and almost-trainspotter like, the execution is far from being unappealing. Split defiantly into two long vinyl-replicating tracks – one for London’s collection of shutdown tube stations and one for Berlin U-bahn stations temporarily closed during the West and East Germany division years – Ghost Stations may not be the easiest thing to breakdown and assimilate, especially for a time-strapped music critic, but its overall impact is worth any perseverance needed.

Ghost Stations (on the inside)

The lengthier London ‘side’ is perhaps the most immediately evocative; moving through haunted stairwells with sparse nocturnal jazz, gamelan percussion shimmers, barely-there ambient murmuring, desolate elemental drones, eerie film noire intimacy and field recordings from subterranean stations themselves. The most obvious touchstones for this London segment are Brian Eno’s Ambient albums, but the ‘post-classical’ wares of Max Richter and Dakota Suite are perhaps more fitting and accurate bedfellows. The shorter Berlin sequence, is perhaps more directly aware of Germanic influences; adding balmy synth and electronica elements cribbed from Kraftwerk’s Ralf Und Florian and the more ruminative wares of Cluster to recurring shades of the London wing of the record. Whatever the comparisons, together the strands of Ghost Stations intertwine into a beautiful whole, creating and sustaining a mood that transcends its combined influences and thematic backbone.

Where Second Language will take us with the next release is still shadowed in mischievous self-mythologizing mystery but at this rate securing a place in the subscription club will be a must for confused but receptive ears lusting for a little scholarly and discerning guidance to locate new and distinct sounds.

Second Language Label Podcast Number 2 (featuring extracts from Ghost Stations)