Plini - Sunhead
The Australian's jazziest effort to date is lavish, tasteful and steeped in emotion
Words: Phil Weller
Australian guitar extraordinaire Plini has returned with four tracks of sparkling jazz fuelled progressive metal that together defines Sunhead as his most lavishly compelling release. An engaging and eclectic listen, coming off the back of a seemingly endless run of dates across the globe since 2016, is an array of songs which develop upon his acclaimed back catalogue in ways few could have expected. But such unpredictability and introspective individuality is the reason his near meteoric rise has been so rapid.
With an approach to guitar playing that eschews a charming uniqueness long since forged in the fires of Allan Holdsworth groundbreaking fusion and Meshuggah’s mathematic aural assaults are now utterly his own, this, his fourth EP, arrives to some fanfare.
Its centrepiece is Flâneur, where The 1975’s saxophonist John Waugh guest appearance flutters above a tastefully extravagant tide of musicality whose spaciousness belies its dense but expertly crafted arrangements. The title track focuses again on Plini’s jazz leanings, with elements of Steve Vai bleeding into his silky playing. But he is ingeniously reserved too. You know there are times when he could really let rip or intensify the progressive aesthetics at play here, but listenability deputises in place of ego-centric virtuosity; something many of his peers couldn’t say about themselves.
Simon Grove’s bass playing, across the entire EP, is more prominent than ever before and creates wonderful textures throughout. Whether adding a melodic but gritty undercurrent to Salt + Charcoal, taking the freewheeling reigns on Sunhead’s laid back and immersive jams or giving the opening track, Kind, a greater velocity, his impact on this record is extremely valuable. He’s been in Plini’s live band for an age now, but this really feels like his moment.
He helps symbolise what is perhaps the most interesting thing about Plini’s first release since 2016’s Handmade Cities, an album lauded by one of his biggest influences, Steve Vai. For what is, on paper, a virtuosic guitarist’s solo project and therefore a chance for fretboard gymnastics and muscle flexing, in fact sounds like an inspired collective effort: It is a powerfully collaborative release. From its beautifully savage opener, which punches you hard whilst infatuating you with its tangy melodies, to the sunset colouration of Sunhead – it’s light but dark and organically gorgeous – the fact it is so full of flair and virtuosic performances is merely a bonus to what is a lovely, lovely listen first and foremost.