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Album Review: Plini – ‘Handmade Cities’

Album Review: Plini – ‘Handmade Cities’

For those new to Plini, he is a Sydney based guitarist/musician that plays instrumental / progressive rock. That’s the long version. The short version is that Plini is both a prodigy and an exceptional performer. Even simpler, to quote an Australian media celebrity, he is a magician. He is self-produced and self-managed. He has garnered millions of views on YouTube while recording and producing three EPs. Then there are the tours, first here in Australia and then a string of sold-out shows in the USA with Intervals, before embarking on yet another tour with Animals as Leaders in tow.

I first caught Plini when he supported Ne Obliviscaris in Adelaide in mid-December 2015. I was literally transfixed, as were the crowd that were there to hear NeO bang out their dark melodic metal. But Plini was playing a different sort of music and totally transfixed the crowd. I was rooted to the spot, normally a sign of sticky floor in the mosh, but this was a mesmerising performance by an artist that has a tone and style that broadcasts warmth and imagination. Plini just standing there smiling, with his Strandberg headless guitar high on his body, playing the most incredible music.

Somehow Plini has managed to find the time to craft an album called, ‘Handmade Cities’. He is accompanied by drummer Troy Wright and bassist Simon Grove (The Helix Nebula) and they have pulled together seven tracks of total quality. The first track, ‘Electric Sunrise’, is all sweetness and light until the end of the first minute then Plini arrives with some of the cleanest guitar playing you will ever hear. When I first heard this I was transported back to Vai’s Flexable and the track, ‘Call it sleep’ as it has the same vibe and wandering melody but with a very different attitude.

The title track, ‘Handmade Cities’, is perhaps the most adventurous progressive track I have heard all year. It is layer upon layer of ideas, each stacked on the other with melodies inside melody. It is over the top and unrelenting but playing like this can only come from the hours that Plini has spent treading the worlds’ stages. But you know what, the band is right there with him and the music is as tight as the mix is crystal clear.

I’ll move through the next two tracks, with, ‘Inhale’ being a track that builds to a fierce solo at the end and, ’Every Piece Matters’, closing with a choral arrangement, both excellent tracks closing out the first four tracks. They are all fresh and packed with ideas but, just as we are getting comfortable, we get, ’Pastures’, which is a flight amongst the clouds. The guitar is intense in places, warm in others and simply vanishes at other points letting the drums and underlying melody come through. This is simply a beautiful track and as good, and as relaxed, as anything I ever heard Eric Johnson do. It’s at this point we have to remind ourselves that Plini is 24 years old and there is a lifetime of music before us but so far he is setting himself up to be untouchable and without comparison. I, of course, have seen the growth from watching him onstage supporting NeO, then following his trips across the globe and then producing this album. We started with the bar being high and it is being raised time and time again.

So, the penultimate track, and it’s, ‘Here We Are, Again’. It’s a sentimental track in many ways and short at just over two minutes but again it gives an insight into the vision and the willingness to go in any direction that seems necessary. All too soon it’s the final track and it’s, ‘Cascade’, which removes the melancholy of the previous track and delivers an instrumental performance that has every shade of the spectrum and more timing changes than a cheap airline. The drumming performance by Troy Wright is sensational and avoids many of the clichés of current progressive drumming. If anything it drives the song forward and issues a challenge-response to Plini’s guitar. This is the stand out performance and stand out track of the album.

I enjoyed Plini when I first saw him and followed his travels across the world. I’ll be catching them when their shows hit Australia again. This album is a sure fire hit that announces that Plini is here to stay, but we know that already from the sold out shows. For those fans of great guitar and sumptuously put together music, then look no further.

Review: Craig Grant

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