Oliver Cherer – Sir Ollife Leigh & Other Ghosts

Oliver Cherer - Sir Ollife Leigh And Other Ghosts

Oliver Cherer – Sir Ollife Leigh And Other Ghosts

During his esoteric journey under the Dollboy alias over the last decade or so, Oliver Cherer has certainly covered a lot of artistic ground through exploring skewed folktronica (2009’s Beard Of Bees), ambient conceptualism (2010’s acclaimed Ghost Stations and this year’s Tuning Loops), lopsided folk-pop (2012’s Further Excursions Into The Ulu With Dollboy) and remixes for Second Language labelmates.  Yet the pseudonym has perhaps given a certain degree of cover for Cherer’s more up-close songwriting persona, which is more openly and deeply expounded on this first album released under his own name.

Not that the unsnappily-titled Sir Ollife Leigh & Other Ghosts is an entirely straightforward ‘Dollboy unplugged’ affair.  Marrying an unconventional mix of acoustic guitars, dulcimer, banjo, zither, sitar, harp, recorder, flute, organ, piano, viola, synths and tape manipulations to meticulously arranged yet earthy vocals (from Cherer himself and guest Riz Maslen), this is a record weighted with pagan folk idioms and deeply English introspection but not one that feels trapped by any genre stereotypes.  With its lyrical palette heavily coloured with themes of loss and death, this is hardly a happy album on paper yet it’s a collection of songs that soothes and soars despite its inherent bleakness.

Hence, it’s hard not to be smitten with the plaintive madrigal-like “Croham Hurst,” the utterly devastating piano ballad “Consider Darkness,” the yearning “Ladybird, Ladybird,” the almost Dark Side Of The Moon-referencing “Asphyxiation” and the near-hymnal “When We Shut Down.”  Imaginative instrumental layering aside, it’s certainly the fusion of Cherer’s plaintive pipes (which uncannily blend Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt’s flat yet emotive tones) with Maslen’s lulling backing vocals which gives the record as a whole such warmth and gravitas.

Admittedly, it does take some diligent listening to fully unpick the charms of Sir Ollife Leigh & Other Ghosts – with the murky mystical likes of “The Dead” and “Millions” perhaps being a tad off-putting at first – but such perseverance uncovers an album of deeply comforting otherworldliness.

Second Language