The Corner of a Sphere, the new album from spoken word artist and saxophonist Angus Fairbairn, aka Alabaster dePlume, is one of the most intriguingly odd selections that we’ve heard this year. The product of a series of collaborative monthly development concerts in Dalston, the LP melds together jazz, post-punk and world music influences all topped off with dePlume’s soft vocal lilt, which alternates from soothing to unnerving throughout.
We asked him to be our guide through this bewildering and beguiling collection of songs.
In mathematics, they can’t decide – either a sphere has infinite corners, or it has none. And as people, we can’t decide – either we’re infinitely divided, or we’re united. Monthly development concerts that brought together different disciplines and communities resulted in the material recorded here.
1. IS IT ENOUGH
A light-hearted admission that nothing is ever enough, that we (people) can’t be satisfied, and that this is funny but at the same time a bit sad. Intends to imply that greed is not a sustainable motive for activity.
2. I WANT A RED CAR
A joke about the desire to possess specific physical objects, that’s so familiar and natural. And bizarre and creepy, out of context.
3. THEY PUT THE STARS FAR AWAY
Whoever put the stars where they are, seems to think we can’t be trusted with them. Considering some of the things we get up to, perhaps it’s fair enough.
4. WHAT DO WE WANT
Our refusal to include people from disadvantaged backgrounds in our society, while celebrating competitive accumulation of wealth, implies that there is something we all want, that’s better than our general wellbeing, better than one-another. What is it?
5. DID YOU EVER HEAR ABOUT THE MAU MAU
The title references an uprising that was brutally crushed by the British Empire, a few decades ago. The serenity and warmth in it is intended to contrast with that reference – or just be pleasant, if the listener is unaware of what the title is on about. Instrumental.
6. BE NICE TO PEOPLE
An expression of how infuriating it can be to put up with humans, that also humbly begs the listener to be genuinely kind, in spite of everything.
7. WHO ARE YOU ASKING FOR
Instrumental passage and spoken piece asking what is demanded of people, by life and the world we create. Who or what is longed for, by this insatiable wonderful existence.
8. ONE FOR EVERY SILENCE
An expression of how a silence can represent the absence of a person, or an idea, or a people, even though it doesn’t necessarily express or communicate anything at all, to us.
How many souls
Only one for every silence
Some nights I don’t know what lines
By light divide us
9. THE WINNER
Two performances by different bands at different sessions, cut together verse by verse. The band stops abruptly at the end and the piece closes with a lone sound from a single instrument, that represents the “winner”. In performance, a different band member delivers their closing sound each time. This time it was Raphael on guitar.
10. THERE’S ALWAYS MORE
We have no ultimate answer, but we go on regardless. We are not protected, and the simple loving act of existence is humble and heroic.
The Corner of a Sphere is out now via Lost Map Records. Alabaster Deplume plays the following live dates:
FRI, MAY 11 @ QUAY ARTS, ISLE OF WIGHT
SAT, MAY 12 @ DOUBLE DOT DASH FESTIVAL, READING
FRI, MAY 25 @ SHEFFIELD MUSEUM
SAT, MAY 26 @ WHARF CHAMBERS, LEEDS
SUN, MAY 27 @ SOUP KITCHEN, MANCHESTER
THU, MAY 31 @ PEACH #18, TOTAL REFRESHMENT
CENTRE, DALSTON, LONDON
FRI, AUG 10 @ HARLDEN POP, GERMANY
FRI, AUG 31 @ NEST COLLECTIVE CAMPFIRE CLUB, LONDON
Photograph by Fabrice B