Only 10 years after he started posting bits of music online and hoping that somebody — anybody — would give him a click, Australian guitarist Plini is now experiencing the kind of success he never dreamed possible. As both a support act and a headliner, he’s trekked across the globe several times (he was the first instrumental artist to play the U.K.’s Download Festival), and on the strength of his dazzling 2017 debut album, Handmade Cities, he’s been hailed by the likes of Steve Vai as “the future of exceptional guitar playing.” (GuitarWorld.com readers were similarly bowled over, ranking the disc number five in a poll of the “20 Best Guitar Records of the Decade.”)
If anybody needs further convincing that the prog-guitar wunderkind had indeed arrived, it came last fall when hiphop star Doja Cat re-imagined her hit song “Say So” at the MTV Europe Music Awards by utilizing bits of Plini’s song “Handmade Cities” — without the guitarist’s knowledge or permission. Initially, Plini issued a statement, calling the lift “disappointing but not particularly surprising in a sector of the industry that is usually more interested in clout than creativity.”
Given a bit of time and space, the guitarist now calls the incident “surreal.” “It’s probably one of the most surreal turns of events of my career so far,” he says. “I think it’s hilarious and amazing, mostly because I wrote that song in my bedroom at the end of 2016, and it’s made its way to L.A. and inspired someone who thought, ‘Oh, it would sound cool if I put this in this song.’ If you ran some random probability generator, this would be something you would never think could happen.”
Plini’s newfound fame is bound to spread further with the release of his second full-length album, Impulse Voices. Throughout eight dizzying tracks, Plini takes listeners on something of a metaphysical mood journey. Performing alongside the guitarist are his longtime cohorts, bassist Chris Grove (who also co-produced and mixed the album) and drummer Chris Allison, as well as contributions from Dave Mackay on piano and synthesizer, John Waugh on saxophone and Amy Turk on electro-acoustic harp.
While there’s plenty of breathtaking moments of wild and woolly guitar virtuosity (“Papelillo’’ includes thrilling flights of djent fretboard wizardry, “The Glass Bead Game” features soaring jazz-fusion runs, while the title track is a speed-picking marvel), the album succeeds more in terms of the emotions Plini evokes through artfully crafted soundscapes and adventurous, genre-bending arrangements than in rote shredding.
“I play the bare minimum amount of guitar that I can while also being a guitarist,” he explains. “I love playing guitar, and I love to do things I’ve never done before on the instrument. Sure, I have my little guitar-hero ego that lives inside me and is like, ‘Hey man, you should throw a sweep-picking lick here and let people know that you know how to do it.’ But I think the biggest thing for me is just trying to write music that I think is interesting, and once I’ve done that, I find the room to put guitar on it, and that’s the blend it becomes.”
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