Album Review: Alabaster DePlume – GOLD [International Anthem; April 2022]

Alabaster DePlume’s warmth shines through on the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2020 album To Cy and Lee but listeners beware: it’s not for the faint-hearted.

GOLD is an exploration of being human at a time when love, war, justice, self-care, selfishness and over-sharing compete and collide, showering us with shards of emotional confusion.

Amidst the chaos, catastrophe and capitalist pitfalls, DePlume takes the role of protector. He tells us we’re precious. He takes on the monster in our place.  His saxophone, an inhuman voice, signifies and soothes our suffering. But does he care too much? The album is heartfelt, and full of pain.

He’s following in his own footsteps here. To Cy and Lee was reportedly received by enraptured listeners as “musical balm against the hyper-stress of the pandemic.” Since then, DePlume – former loud angular rocker, inebriated travelling bard and chaotic collectivist – has combined his passions for people-power and creative collaboration by joining forces with Dan Levers (The Comet is Coming) and Joshua Idehen; reciting a Socialist Chilean President’s speech to a sold-out London crowd; and broadcasting improvised musical gatherings on Worldwide FM show Realistic Behaviour.

Gold contains elements of this light-hearted spontaneity. The prosaic poetry of stand-out track Don’t Forget You’re Precious combines the wry humour and pragmatism of Scroobius Pip’s Thou Shalt Always Kill and Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen. DePlume intones modern mundanities like a jazz Baxter Dury, before rallying his listener to a higher purpose: “They can’t beat us, they can’t use us against each other, if we don’t forget we’re precious.”

‘They’ are many: social media, consumerism, complacency, ourselves, each other, the end-times. They appear again in Fucking Let Them: an exhilarating shot of live performance that’s met with the cheers and laughs of a roused crowd. It’s a positive affirmation, a brazen light to ward ‘them’ off.

Elsewhere, DePlume sets ethical puzzles to a textured backdrop of unsettling complexity. Drones and dissonance can be a hard listen (Visitors YT158 – Jerusalem, Palestine; the relentless “people in the sea” chant of People: What’s the Difference?) but do drive the point home.

The discordant effect could be process-driven: his ‘22 personnel’ were asked to collectively improvise the album over two weeks in the studio. It’s another way of showing care: an approach that is “people-first, not product-first” has the musicians’ experience at heart. But does it serve both the contributor and audience?

Still, its playfulness is palpable. The album oozes experimentation: DePlume is playing with the idea of what an album is, of what music can be. And it’s honest. On I Will Not Be Safe DePlume relays his mission statement to “the machine,” for the listener to overhear. “I will be magical,” he says. “I will be open and true and good….I do not have the answer…I will be.”

GOLD demands attention, and provokes thought. The most irresistible message on there? “Don’t forget you’re precious – I’m not going to keep reminding you.”

But he will – true to mission, there’s no doubt that DePlume will keep reminding us how precious we are.

Alabaster DePlume's new album GOLD is out now via International Anthem. You can listen to it and buy your copy following this LINK