Gus Fairbairn’s multiplicity as a person filters into his latest album ‘GOLD’. In all honesty, it filters into his entire existence as a musician under the title Alabaster DePlume – a poet, a singer, saxophonist, orator and pioneer on the London jazz scene.
‘GOLD’ bounded into April, bright eyed and bushy tailed, leaving a trail of vibrancy in its wake. It came as a warm welcome to Spring, but by no means plays ignorant to the condition of the world and the months that preceded Alabaster’s offering. His voice is cutting, with lingering qualities of the cynicism we have come to associate with the Mancunian artist. Yet, deep at the core of GOLD it’s clear that beneath layers of saxophone, piano, guitar whimpers and lingering vocals. Alabaster has truly utilized the 19 track Album to expose himself bare to a reality that’s easily romanticized by the very instruments he plays. As the tracks develop, these layers are lifted to expose the Gold within.
By emphasising the need for self-kindness and respect, and placing people at the forefront of every track, GOLD develops as an incredibly unique record. Every second of the precious hour and seven minutes is dedicated to vulnerability and collective politics, offered with open arms by the man “brazen like a baby”. This offbeat boldness could be discomforting, when the guiding voice of Alabaster confesses in ‘I’m Good At Not Crying’ that he’s “good at not sleeping much” something is unsettled in the belly of the track. Yet, that same voice, guided by remarkable sounds of the saxophone, is “good at not being the bad guy”. Parallels and discomforts are diminished, anxieties are settled, as the artist enters an ambiguous, yet relatable, search of self. In this way, fears are unearthed – identified in spoken word so they can be transformed into courage – “the courage of my love”.
‘GOLD’ was recorded over a couple of weeks, but Alabaster’s craftsmanship is timeless. Each ensemble member was driven by feeling in improvised sessions that DePlume would transform into astonishing song. In a subtle way, this development is hinted at within the album. For instance, the initiation of the serene ‘A Gente Acaba (Vento Em Rosa)’ as a canvas for the following, creative brilliance and emotional indulgence. ‘Remember You’re Precious’ is a brush stroke that accentuates the serenity of the previous track with DePlume’s ironic speech. Remember you’re precious, remember your National Insurance Number. It imbues the album with the consistent, subtle pain of finding peace in a society that constrains self.
Following on from 2020’s ‘To Cy and Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1’, ‘GOLD’ is an album that offers a homely atmosphere whilst questioning the interior of that home. It is wise in its approach – urging the need to face internal dilemmas that have been ignored for far too long.
Words: Amelia Kelly
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