Sound — 8
The niche but burgeoning DIY prog metal scene can be analogized as the '80s shred guitar scene for an artsy new generation, and when one takes a look at the fresh-faced guitarists integral to the skillful scene - whether Aaron Marshall of Intervals, Ben Sharp of Cloudkicker, or Martin Andres of Pomegranate Tiger - it's not a far-fetched observation to make. Hailing from Australia, Plini has been growing bigger and bigger in that scene lately, where his early activity of the occasional, guitar-centric single solely constructed by himself has heightened into bigger EP releases exploring more sonic features and including contributions from other up-and-coming musicians both domestic and international (though he makes sure to state that everything is still mixed in his humble bedroom in Sydney).
With those previous three EPs over the course of a couple years being an intermittent-spanning series showing Plini's effort to release music in more substantial quantities, it comes as little surprise that his newest offering, "Handmade Cities," finally reaches for LP status. As expected, Plini's guitar acrobatics dazzle at several points, whether heard in the constant tapping riffs in the opening "Electric Sunrise," the tricky djent/prog metal riffs that are amply layered in the final "Cascade," the gentler but precise soloing in "Every Piece Matters," the fusion jazz torch-carrying melody of the eponymous song, or the peak shredding performance unleashed in "Pastures."
While those displays are anchored on Plini's original appeal as an astounding guitarist, his songwriting in "Handmade Cities" aims to achieve more than that. Along with collaborating bassist Simon Grove (the bassist for The Helix Nebula, who also provided bass performances on Plini's previous EP "The End of Everything") showing off impressively in the earlier moments of "Pastures," and drummer Troy Wright teeming with energy in "Inhale," Plini's arrangements spread out more from the djent/prog metal style. While the penultimate "Here We Are, Again" is the most upfront offering that's different (banking mostly on string arrangements for a short cut of orchestral aspirations), Plini's electronica influence manifests in the IDM-inspired jittery production value found in "Cascade," "Here We Are, Again," and the eponymous song.
Lyrics — 8
[There are no lyrics in this album.]
Overall Impression — 8
With Plini's self-made catalog of music growing in small increments for the past few years, "Handmade Cities" is a milestone release for the young DIY musician that has been a long time coming. Still rooted at Plini's core of guitar showmanship, "Handmade Cities" also displays more aspirations of offering different sonic characteristics, gears, and more dynamic songwriting, properly proving that Plini's intrigue as a musician is more than just a bunch of talented guitar performances slapped together.