Plini – ‘Sunhead’ (EP Review)
Plini is one of the most highly respected instrumental guitarists in the world right now. Steve Vai heavily praised Plini’s first (and so far only) long-player Handmade Cities, while the Australian virtuoso’s DIY work ethic landed him on Download Festival’s Dogtooth Stage for the legendary event’s first ever instrumental guitar set. Although Plini first made his name online, he’s also travelled across the physical world for a long series of often-sold-out headline and support shows – and he will continue to do so as this year progresses.
With a stellar reputation to uphold, each new Plini release is hotly anticipated – and each fan’s attention and patience is inevitably rewarded. Although EPs are often afterthoughts, treated as between-album filler for superfans only, Plini has always put everything he has into each of his own. His first three EPs (Other Things, Sweet Nothings, and The End Of Everything) formed a trilogy – and although it’s too early to tell if Sunhead will become the beginning of a second series, it stands on its own as another finely-sculpted landmark.
Sunhead is largely made up of stuttering, stumbling, and stammering riffs contrasted against epic, life-affirming chord progressions and perfectly crafted melodic lines. Each of the above are Plini trademarks, but Sunhead also pushes heavy jazz and fusion influences to the forefront. Flâneur is a perfect example, bringing in pianist/keyboardist Anomalie and The 1975’s John Waugh on saxophone for an intricate six-minute voyage through a series of tightly arranged sections, while title track Sunhead mutates an introductory fingerpicked chord-melody part into heavier shapes while also taking in sick drum fills, a bass solo, one Holdsworth-evoking guitar spot from Tim Miller, and a beautifully tangled outro riff.
Although Plini’s guitar is obviously the star of the show, his backing band and guests are given plenty of time to shine – and bassist Simon Grove really makes the most of it. Already-famed advance single Salt & Charcoal would be greatly diminished without certain gritty bass tones and never-obstructive lines – and no discussion of that particular track would be complete without acknowledging Plini’s ability to channel Steve Vai without sounding like a clone. Even when Plini wears an influence on his sleeve, it remains integrated into his own style rather than sticking out like a self-conscious bit of showing off.
This isn’t music made to impress anyone; Plini’s long-standing willingness to share the spotlight with a long list of other talented players (and also give them plenty of space in the mix) makes it clear that ego is being pushed aside in favour of musicality. That rarely embraced approach is what really makes Plini’s music so badass, at least as much as his technical and compositional skills. Simon Grove’s bass playing (again) makes Kind both dark and warm, while drummer Chris Allison’s cymbals feel deeply peaceful and soothing even during said track’s heavier bits.
You don’t get that with your average wanky guitar-and-MIDI release. It says something that Plini has consistently attracted real humans to his cause, rather than surrounding himself with programmed machines. As with all of his work to date, Sunhead is a very human EP – and if it leaves you cold, poke your skin and check for wires, because you might turn out to be a Cylon or Terminator.
LTK RATING: 96% (Essential Listening!)
Pre-order Sunhead (out July 27) via Bandcamp here.
Follow me on Twitter for updates!
Need more to read? Click below to start reading Why Do Good Bands Break Up? for free!