30 Aug 2017
Gilroy Mere – The Green Line
Reviewed by Shaun C. Rogan
There is something almost sinister about how Clay Pipe Music schedule their records during the year to seasonally reflect their content. Thus the recent arrival of Gilroy Mere’s debut release, the transportationally themed “The Green Line” is perfectly timed to reach me in the balmy summer haze of a mid-August afternoon in London.
As with all conceptually strong works a quick contextual paragraph is in order. The Green Line was real. The Green Line was one of the main bus service routes in/out of London that served nearby home counties and would shuttle London residents off to summer oases across the south east coast throughout the 1950's until reaching its last stop in the mid-1980's. Sun seekers could pack their bag and head for such salubrious and bucolic coastal resorts as Margate, Reigate, Whitstable and all the way round the coast to Rye, Camber Sands and even Brighton or Eastbourne. Others would use the opportunity to nestle in the hills of the South Downs paying visits to chocolate box villages where time had stood still. These were some of the great day trip holiday destinations for the working class folk of the post war years and the Green Line buses would continue to plough a wonderful farrow through old England until the monstrous deregulation of bus services under the parasitic Thatcher Governments of the 1980’s. In this fine work, Gilroy Mere offers this beautiful and warm psycho-geographical homage to a time when society was more cohesive and you could buy lemonade in glass bottles. A gloriously metaphysical metaphor in resplendent sound, no less.
Gilroy Mere for those who don’t like a good mysterious nom-de-plume is south coast polymath and allround good guy, Oliver Cherer who in various guises has spent the past 20 years or so delivering output of great quality under his own name and also as Dollboy. Anyone who has knowledge of Cherer's back catalogue will know our man in St. Leonards is a sonic alchemist of rare ability. They will also bear testament to his fondness of the egalitarian beauty of public transport and its ability to liberate the mind and body.
So what does it sound like? Well, if conceptually it is hugely appealing to many of a certain disposition, it more than matches up sonically - a beautiful tapestry of sound that is as warm as an August sunset and sweet as a packet of Spangles. To this reviewer, the spectre of Brian Eno is definitely hovering over much of what constitutes the journey on the ‘The Green Line’. Opening track ‘Dunroamin’’ is a slowed down diesel fuelled reinterpretation of ‘St Elmo’s Fire’ (minus the Fripp-tronics) from ‘Another Green World’ refracted through the dreamier moments of Steve Reich and dowsed in that deep sense of contemplative musical humanism that permeates much of Oliver Cherer’s work.
‘Cuckoo Waltz’ follows with an almost pagan feel to its circular folky pattern and features the first of several highly tasteful string arrangements, adding a layer of deeply impressionistic and heart warming resonance to proceedings. ‘RLH48’ celebrates the iron horse of the country lanes, with some very tastefully deployed Gilmour-esque slide guitar flowing over a sparse motorik beat imaging the endless green-scenery of the rural autobahn. ‘Hop Pickers’ is watery and strange with its arpreggios falling and rising in gentle breaths of sound. ‘ A Lychgate’ features some lovely multi-tracked recorder and chambered guitar/piano interplay giving the impression that the listener has departed the bus and somehow stumbled upon the enactment of some ancient rural rite in a derelict churchyard.
"I Can See the Sea From Here" is an abstracted collision of synth generated ambient noise and brightly strummed banjo/mandolin. It threatens to overwhelm and anaesthetise the listener as it gradually builds an enveloping gauze of treated sound saving us only by virtue of its sheer sense of euphoria.
The title track is a peach. Its propulsive and arresting opening fuses some crashing, teutonic piano chords with delicately picked guitar and some almost ‘Low-era’ Bowie-esque spectral chanting. Then we shift gear to move into some spiralling keyboard runs that keep us very much in the realms of the pastoral - especially if your idea of pastoral has room for the likes of Pink Floyd's 1970 masterpiece 'Atom Heart Mother'.
“Moss and Yew” is a beautiful, wordless baroque folk-ballad that throws a well worn picnic blanket on a sandy dune of distant memory. Fiercely evocative, like the best of Cherer's work, its a wordless poem of quietly yearning, peculiarly English desperation and provides a penultimate sigh of the heart before its uplifting and unexpected closing section bring the bus back to pick us up and take us home. The closing and aptly titled “Just Turn for Home” surges on the back of some Robert Kirby style string arrangements and a lovely acoustic guitar motif.
As we reach journey's end and get off the bus there is a final flourish of engine noise and ethereal soundscape that places an invisible arm around our shoulder and leads us gently back to our homes and lives. Cherer doesn't do sad - the resolution of the record is calm and measured, warm and reassuring. Glowing. The trip on The Green Line has been a fabulous journey of self-discovery thanks to our designated driver. A wonderful, brilliantly conceived and executed record that speaks gently yet directly and irresistably to your heart.
Needless to say, this latest production is impeccably packaged by visionary artist and label owner, Frances Castle and the vinyl pressing of 500 (green, of course) is likely to be gone before you can say “Tickets please!”. So don’t be slow, get aboard and nab a top deck window seat for a journey through the past that will enrich your present in myriad ways. Record of the year? A must for the any shortlist.
Available direct from Clay Pipe Music - preorders are available from tomorrow (September 1), full release September 15.