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Alabaster DePlume

Language available : english
Alabaster DePlume is the performing identity of Angus "Gus" Fairbairn, a writer, saxophonist, orator, producer, and guitarist based in England. Since releasing the unclassifiable Copernicus: The Good Book of No in 2012, DePlume has been integrating jazz, folk traditions -- from the British Isles and other global sources -- spoken word and more as a bandleader and sideman. In 2013 he and composer/pianist Daniel Inzani issued the large ensemble, avant-cabaret offering The Jester. Two years later, he released The Peach, a complex yet accessible large ensemble work combining a song cycle, jazz improvisation, and folk. The experimental chamber jazz-cum-singer/songwriter collection At the Corner of a Sphere followed in 2018. In February 2020 he released his International Anthem debut, To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals, Vol. 1 and a few months later, I Was Not Sleeping, with Dan Leavers, appeared. In 2022, DePlume released Gold, weaving together spoken word and spiritual jazz. Raised in Manchester, Fairbairn was obsessed with sound and music early on, and by the notion of playing music "not the right way" and as "it was never meant to be played." For example, his early teen punk and post-punk bands never played in the genre standard 4/4 or even 2/4 time. The M.O. was always to make "very precise loud shouting angular rock." During the mid-aughts, Fairbairn reinvented himself. He stopped playing in bands and began acting like a drunken man traveling the U.K. and Ireland speaking poems in bars, on street corners, bookstores, and in tube stations. After returning to Manchester, he moved into a Georgian manor house full of "chaotic guitarists." It was a time of front room jams and survival gigs. Fairbairn learned to play saxophone while drunk and observing, then joined the players during their jams. He learned to play melodically and softly, and won a gig accompanying sister Mancunian, singer/songwriter Liz Green on her tours and albums. During this time, Fairbairn spent a decade working with adults with learning disabilities. He taught them to enjoy socializing by getting them out to dance or by driving around, singing songs together or engaged in community humming. This period generated many of the songs and instrumentals that appeared on his early albums. In many ways, Fairbairn's life was guided by chance and circumstance. He came by his performing alias while walking down a street and being shouted at by individuals speeding by in a passing car. Their actual words were unintelligible, but he heard them as "Alabaster DePlume" and his performing identity was officially born. All the while he was already developing ideas about recording and performing live. DePlume's debut album also came about in an idiosyncratic way: While undergoing a difficult emotional period in his life, he wrote songs constantly, sometimes making them while walking down the road and singing to himself. In an attempt to externalize the oppressive feelings, he booked studio time and an engineer, and enlisted some friends for sessions at Lymefield Studio in Middleton. His full intention was to dispel his negative emotions with an album he'd issue all by himself on vinyl; the project became 2012's Copernicus: The Good Book of No, on Debt Records. The set bore all of DePlume's trademarks, including world-weary spoken word in a virtually unclassifiable song cycle. The following year, DePlume hooked up with Bristol-based pianist and composer Daniel Inzani (Spindle Ensemble, Tezeta). They recruited ten musicians and singers. The program consisted of theatrical spoken word poems and songs, fugues and interludes. He was joined by a chorus, horns, strings, piano, and percussion. The album and its predecessor both won acclaim in the U.K. and in northern Europe, allowing him to appear on the BBC. He used various concepts from both recordings to develop a theater piece for the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. In 2015, DePlume issued The Peach under his stage and real names. He, 14 musicians, and nearly 100 vocalists recorded in four studios and utilized an abundance of field recordings for a collection about inclusivity, music, and travel with sounds as diverse as jazz and Japanese folk music. It won international acclaim, allowing DePlume to tour farther afield. 2018's The Corner of a Sphere was a labyrinthine collection of songs, poems, and complex yet accessible musical motifs. In addition to acknowledging an inclusivity that makes us all culpable in society's poles of achievement and blame, he turned his gaze to the overtly political, reflecting on post-colonial relics, Britain's class system, Tory nationalism, and white privilege in the arts community. Issued by Johnny Lynch's Lost Map Records, it won accolades across the U.K., the U.S., and Canada. The set proved so popular it spawned 2019's If in Doubt, Yes: The Corner of a Sphere Live and Remixed. Near the end of the year, DePlume signed with Chicago's International Anthem in the U.S. In February 2020, he released To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals, Vol. 1. The instrumentals included both new compositions as well as extant vocal-less material left off his first four albums. The two subjects listed in the title were actually clients at Ordinary Lifestyles, adults with socialization disabilities who he had worked with in Manchester. The set received widespread reviews -- almost all were laudatory. Bon Iver sampled material from several songs as well as "Visit Croatia" from his debut to use in the song "PDLIF." Given a lack of touring opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DePlume returned to the studio with the Comet Is Coming's Danalogue the Conqueror (aka Dan Leavers) to release the digital album I Was Not Sleeping. He also played on the track "Amoeba's Dream" from Danalogue's and drummer Sarathy Korwar's EP Equinox. Later that summer, DePlume booked two weeks of sessions at the influential Total Refreshment Centre in London, recording to tape with Kristian Craig Robinson (aka Capitol K). He invited a different set of musicians for each day. They recorded the same tunes at the same speed, and DePlume produced the tracks and later edited and cut them together. Crisscrossing film music, improvisations, loosely composed songs, and interludes, the songs cut across genres from jazz to Carnatic music to folk, pop, and dub made on the spot, and the sonorous, 19-song double-length album Gold was the result. Released in April 2022, it celebrated the communal act of music-making and the development of interpersonal and community relationships while deliberately eschewing the traditional way of recording.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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