DePlume is a Manchester-born, London-based bandleader, composer, saxophonist, activist and orator. He’s a resident at the legendary London creative hub Total Refreshment Centre, a recording artist for the off-grid, Scottish Hebridean island label Lost Map, and now the latest arrival into Chicago-based International Anthem’s growing family of progressive musical explorationists. Whilst much of his music contains vocals – often whispered imperatives – this is a collection of instrumentals, drenched in feeling and recorded over four albums and eight years in cities across the UK.
The music of “To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1” contains naturally elegant orchestration wrapped around something visceral and primordial. Swirled inside the 11 pieces are shades of Japanese Min’yo folk, Celtic folk, the Ethio-jazz of saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya and hints of the pan-human ‘ancient music’ that sat underneath Arthur Russell’s melodies on First Thought, Best Thought. The music is filled with space, inspired, he says, by computer games and Japanese animation, particularly Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack for Studio Ghibli’s Castle In The Sky.
To Cy & Lee has a suitably individual genesis as well. DePlume was working for Ordinary Lifestyles, a charity in North Manchester which supports people with disabilities to live in their own homes and to live fulfilling lives. Specifically, he was working with the titular Cy and Lee. His job was to get the guys socialising and he did this by making up songs with them. They’d make up melodies together, humming tunes in the house when they needed something calm, or when they were haring round the city in a battered car. DePlume would record these impromptu sessions in his phone, then go to the studio and use the material as starting points for songs.
He also ran music sessions for Cy, Lee and their friends. “People would focus on a central point, tuning in to one another. There are things we can’t put into words, which can be expressed with sound and music. These guys have fewer words than us, some of them have none. When we put some feelings into a music expression – that’s liberation.”
It’s a method he uses in live shows wherever possible, placing himself and the musicians in the round. The aim is to maximise the creative benefits that a community of players and listeners can bring to the music. It’s a collectivist and humanist approach to making music that sits underneath everything he does. This is music made for a reason, and those reasons include – to paraphrase some of the catchphrases he uses both on stage and in conversation – mixing people up, asking everyone to be as much themselves as they possibly can and the hardcore encouragement expressed in his most popular line, shouted back at him by audiences wherever he goes: “You’re doing very well!”