Alabaster de Plume

Peach
Debt Records

Alabaster DePlume, so called because it was the name he thought he heard joyriders shout at him in the street when he was wearing a skirt, describes his third album, Peach, as a “sweet and soft and good thing with a stone in the middle”. But there is no stone at the centre of Alabaster - it’s all sweet, delicious peach.

Peach continues in the vein of his impressive Copernicus album with a rich mixture of classical music, songs and spoken word, a combination which makes the softly spoken Mancunian a rare treat indeed.

The songs are enchanting, full of open heart surgery honesty and sweet, melancholic, meditative melodies. This is an album to lose yourself within, to tightly wrap yourself around, its multilayered fabrics like a thick duvet over your head, shutting out the world’s noise.

The instrumentals, in particular ‘Turpentine’, ‘Pastry’ and ‘Whisky Story Time’, are heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The poems are bold, thoughtful works. Alabaster’s delivery is unique, almost Shakespearean. He recognises this, plays with it, parodies himself. Adopting the moniker of Alabaster DePlume, how could he not?

Yet, it is through this that he is able to express a core of humanity - that we are all ridiculous, puffing our chests out with bombastic personas, but our feelings, fears and vulnerabilities are what make us human.

Peach ends with ‘I Am Strange’, a celebration of being odd with a chorus of people joining in with the refrain. I’m certainly happy to be in that chorus wearing a skirt, on the side of those with hearts.

Stan Skinny

Aver

And Now For Something Exactly the Same
Self-released

Aver is the latest member of The Natural Curriculum to put his own record out after impressive solo releases from Chalk and Bill Sykes, who also collaborates with The Bluntskins.

And Now For Something Exactly The Same is anything but. There are just four tracks, but each has its own distinctive personality. ‘True Lyrics’ starts with a child’s voice which is then remixed and scratched into charts that would befit an Archie Shepp composition. ‘She Prayed To The Moon’ is another instrumental which would be lapped up by any respected MC, but stands alone as a curious Blaxploitation number, complete with samples and scratching that detours from hip hop in its purest form.

It’s not until ‘Solastalgia’ that Aver flexes his vocals, and even then he’s in no rush, letting a sample about space colonisation set the scene whilst an avant-garde string quartet evoke the mood of a Stanley Kubrick movie. When his Mancunian accent arrives in the midst of the fog telling us that “there’s a banker inside of all of our heads and he must be killed,” your ears prick up immediately. It’s a genuinely weird, psychedelic piece of music that straddles the fine line between praising someone’s creative vision and suggesting they seek psychiatric help.

Aver gets into his stride on ‘Ego Rap’, decrying the horde of pretenders who produce formulaic “lad rap”, introducing the “observational info-rhymers meet the Stewart Lee of slow rap” with a masterclass in dry wit. All too quickly his 15 minutes of anti-fame are over and you’re reaching for repeat.

Nathan McIlroy