For Fans Of
With great talent, comes great expectations. Such is the burden of those with a reputation to uphold, and it can be a very great one, at that. It isn’t necessarily fair, but we always hold the most talented and ingenious to a much higher standard than, say, the mediocre, or the inept. And so it is with Plini, that us mere mortals place upon him the demand that we should be wowed at every turn, purely by virtue of his undeniable, outrageous talent.
‘Handmade Cities‘ is technically Plini’s debut album. That is if you don’t count ‘The Trilogy‘, an amalgamation of three separate EP’s released over the span of a few years, all sharing a common musical motif. ‘The Trilogy‘ is a meandering, experimental masterwork, which was always going to be exceptionally difficult to match, let alone best, and I’d be lying if I said ‘Handmade Cities‘ entirely lives up to the hype. Now, before you go thinking that means this isn’t a good album, that’s not it at all.
On the surface, you’ve got a collection of exceptionally well-composed tracks. The instrumentation is just delightful, with some gorgeous interplay between all of the elements. None of this is news to anyone who has ever heard Plini before, so I’ll skip the superlative overload.
What I will say, however, is that ‘Handmade Cities‘ and ‘Cascade‘ are probably the only two tracks from this album that deserve to be held in the same regard as his other works. ‘Electric Sunrise‘ is pretty, as is ‘Every Piece Matters‘, and ‘Inhale‘ is a lot of fun. ‘Pastures‘ and ‘Here We Are, Again‘ are a wonderful example of what Plini is capable of delivering, without seemingly breaking a sweat. There’s that same pop sensibility that sets him apart from his contemporaries, that same intrinsic quality in every aspect of the songs. But after a few listens, you can’t help but feel like there was a conscious effort to avoid any risk, or at the very least, any real experimentation. One of the problems with having someone so spectacularly gifted is that even their more modest works are pretty impressive, so it can be a bit difficult to judge in isolation. It is only by holding them up to an adjusted standard more in line with their artistic stature, do we truly grasp whether the artist has done themselves justice.
In a nutshell, the problem is that this album feels too safe. It is brilliant, as is pretty much anything that Plini is ever likely to produce, sure, but that doesn’t mean it is truly doing his obscene talent justice. Gone is the jazzy, experimental side for the most part, and whilst the token “djent” parts are still well executed, they almost feel obligatory at times. The thing is, though, Plini is just so fucking good at putting together a song from a compositional, and technical standpoint, that most people won’t even notice. Your average listener will put this album on, and get lost in the consummate song crafting within. And that is TOTALLY okay. It’s better than okay. It’s fucking amazing, and a testament to just how good the triumvirate of Plini Roessler-Holgate, Troy Wright, and Simon Grove really are; that we can be served with probably 70%, and still have it feel like 100% of anyone else.
To sum up, this ‘Handmade Cites’ is a paradox. It is beautiful, undeniably so, in fact, but somehow less fulfilling for it. Ardent fans should likely find themselves satisfied to have SOMETHING, but will also probably feel like this was a missed opportunity at the same time. But you know what? It almost doesn’t matter! Because this is still a great listen from start to finish. You will still be hitting for the repeat button, just like with anything else Plini has released. You will still marvel at the skill of Roessler-Holgate, Wright and Grove, despite this being far from a challenging listen. And really, if this was released by anyone else, it would probably be far more impressive. But, to those who are familiar with his catalog, and his unique take on music, there’s the nagging feeling here that Plini and co can do even better. Maybe on the next album…