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Plini: Death to easy listening

It’s undeniable that, despite a popular revulsion towards trends in the mainstream, the world of heavy music is dominated by a good fad.

From the Rise Records emo formula of the late-noughties, to the current metallic hardcore sound championed by many Hatebreed knock-offs today, some sounds are firm time-stamps of musical history.

This assessment is perhaps more applicable to djent than any other sub-genre of metal, (bar ’80s thrash maybe) with the exploits of the bedroom shredders seemingly set to live and die on webcams and Between The Buried and Me support slots.

That’s not so for Bondi guitar and production maestro Plini, the fusion metal whiz kid who has continued to evolve and take the instrumental and heavy worlds by storm.

Speaking to us the day before the release of his second full-length LP Impulse Voices, the musician, real name Plini Roessler-Holgate (yes sir, there’s a real Plini in the world), sounds both relaxed and self-assured in where he’s at as a musician.

“I basically spent all of lockdown walking around listening to music and podcasts constantly,” he reveals, noting that “it was the first time in quite some time that I’ve been able to just be a greedy consumer and a fan of music.”

“With my first record [Handmade Cities] everything had to come together really quickly. I was deep in the production stage, and then suddenly I had the tour offer come through with Animals As Leaders. I was like ‘Well, I guess this is done now.’

“This time around I was really able to think about what changes I wanted to make, as well as lean into my backing band [Simon Grove on bass, Chris Allison on drums] and get their input. They’re amazing musicians, and really helped me iron out what shape these songs were going to take.”

Since arriving in a hailstorm of sweeps and jazzy scales with his debut Other Things back in 2013, and earning accolades from the likes of Marco Minnemann and Steve Vai in the process, Plini’s music has undergone significant growth, with his exciting 2018 Sunhead EP bringing in elements of funk and fusion akin to ‘dinner party music’, as it was described by him at the time.

It only seems fair then to ask what setting this new record will best inhabit. After all, with its extra tinge of heaviness, it’s hard to picture Impulse Voices on a café speaker.

“In the past, obviously I still put my all into the music, but there was a sense of ‘easy listening’ at times.”

“It’s a good question,” he laughs. “I think that more than anything, I want people to listen to this one a little more deeply. In the past, obviously I still put my all into the music, but there was a sense of ‘easy listening’ at times. But not this time.

“I really tried to think a bit more outside the box with things like arrangements, etcetera. That’s obviously a bit easier when you’re doing instrumental music as well – there’s a wider breadth of possibilities at your disposal – but with this record I’ve tried to create a bigger sense of atmosphere, go deeper textually. Essentially, making it more immersive.”

Immersive is an apt word to describe the new album, which avoids the trap of trying to dazzle the listener with olympic-standard technicality. 

Rather, Impulse Voices is an entertaining listen on the merit of the music alone, bolstered by the inclusion of some other wonderful musicians in Plini’s world.

“I did some work with multi-instrumentalist Dave Mackay who I’ve toured with before. He brought an amazing perspective to a lot of the music, so that was great,” he says, also noting the valuable addition of the occasional saxophone line, courtesy of  John Waugh of The 1975.

“Having those additional voices in the process, as well as my live band…it meant that I could have so much more confidence in the product.

“I kind of see myself as an interior designer with the music, and all these other people help me decide where to put the furniture, the paintings; it wouldn’t be a ‘home’ without them.”

It’s a wholesome metaphor to end on, one that reflects the relaxed positivity of the musician.

There will always be voices that write off instrumental heavy music as a thing of the past. However, as proven by Plini on this album, and throughout his entire evolution, it’s beyond entertaining. It’s timeless.

Plini’s second album, Impulse Voices, is out now.