“I don’t necessarily live by a calendar,” acclaimed guitarist and composer Plini laughs, walking me through what were the last few months of his 2023.
The start of the Australian summer saw the release of the Sydney-based musician’s seventh EP, Mirage, dropping not long after his last run of North American shows wrapped up – a fitting bow tied on what had been a busy and fruitful year of performances around the world.
Creating Mirage was a process that began in 2020 for Plini, shortly after the release of his second studio album, Impulse Voices. The EP is a warm and deliberate offering, a record that needed ample time to ruminate and grow within itself.
In short: Mirage was a record that couldn’t arrive in its fitting final form by sticking to a traditional roll out or calendar plan. Which makes it a quintessentially Plini type of joint: layered, versatile and vibrant, without bending to expectation.
“It turned out a little weirder than I expected, but in a good way,” he muses. “The process was so… patient.”
“If it was a painting it’d be like, you’d walk past it every day and add a little bit here and there. In that way, there were a lot of details that I wouldn’t have necessarily come across in the past, where I would have been like, ‘Here’s a couple of months where I’m going to record something,’ and then find out later what I may have missed.”
Another close collaboration with producer and bass player Simon Grove, Mirage led Plini to see elements of his compositions through a different lens. Following different threads of sound with Grove and drummer Chris Allison over an expanded span of time, Mirage is a record Plini acknowledges needed the extra time to cook.
“I finished most of my parts earlier in the year, so we were doing final bits of production and mixing throughout the year,” Plini recalls. “Originally, I’d wanted to finish it at the start of the year so it would be out for all the touring we did, but then it would have been rushed. We agreed to take as long as needed, for it to be good.
“I think it was a huge benefit giving Simon as long as he wanted with the mix; he also did a lot of stuff, like running guitars through different effects that I didn’t necessarily think of originally. He found an amp on the side of the road, I don’t think it’s necessarily a good amp, it’s just old, but he recorded a couple of parts in his spare bathroom using it. Stuff like that, which doesn’t have a reason… like I wouldn’t have written a part that needed a free amp, in a toilet. Coming across stuff like that has been cool.”
This March, Australian fans will be able to celebrate Mirage properly with Plini, with his album tour set to take him right around the country on an excellently curated bill of artists that features New York future-jazz ensemble Sungazer, and Polish prog master Jakub Zytecki.
The Plini live experience has always been synonymous with a certain intensity that stems from his deft and forward-thinking approach to not only performance, but also the hungry vision Plini has for the experimental and nuanced nature of his music itself.
There’s a reason why, since returning to touring in 2022, Plini has consistently enjoyed back to back sold out tours in Australia, Scandinavia, and India, as well as Europe and North America in more recent memory. The energy that he conjures in his live realm is intoxicating and impossible to deny.
For Plini and his bandmates, Mirage in its live form will take some time to massage into the set, but that’s half the fun.
“We played one of the tracks on the last tour and we dabbled with another one,” he says. “We would play it ten times in soundcheck and if it wasn’t good by the tenth time, then we wouldn’t play it that night.”
“With the old stuff, the way we play it now is different to the way it was recorded. With this stuff, it’ll be even more interesting because I think it’s the most involved that Simon and Chris have been in the songs. They’ll be coming into it, already super familiar, so we’ll see. Simply playing them will be the first part!”
Looking ahead remains central to Plini’s artistry. Though this Mirage chapter is just beginning in its obvious ways, the musician contemplates how creating music in this way, coupled with rebuilding a busy live presence, has redefined his relationship with music – both as a creative, and consumer.
“In terms of listening, I feel like it comes and goes,” he says, referring to new bursts of inspiration from other art.
“There’ll be ten months of the year where nothing I like comes out and then suddenly, there’s three albums that are my favourite albums I’ve heard in forever. I’ve noticed over time, it’s always like that. If I’m in a slump, whether it’s in my own writing or in finding stuff I like, it’s probably a matter of time. It’s the same thing with the schedule being crazy and coming out of lockdown, the lesson was just to take time with everything.
“One thing is that I feel more and more of a challenge to be like, ‘How much weirder can I get?’ How many more new things are there to find? It’s an addictive challenge to go, ‘I’ve listened to this much music in life so far, what other shit is out there?’ I don’t want to go in circles, I want to go into the unknown.”
Plan’s tour heads to Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne in March. More information can be found here.