The Plum Magnetic – Terra Animata Album Review

The Plum Magnetic is an eclectic world/fusion/rock quartet. Drawing comparisons to groups ranging from Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, The Grateful Dead, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Talking Heads and Umphrey’s McGee, The Plum Magnetic is one of the most diverse and original up and coming groups in the New Orleans scene and beyond.

The Plum Magnetic is Trent Ciolino (electric six-string banjo,vocals), Andrew McLean (guitars, tabla), Jon Solomon (bass) and Oliver Burke (drums).

The Plum Magnetic album

The Plum Magnetic Terra Animata artwork

The aim of The Plum Magnetic is to blend elements of music from all over the world into a synergistic whole and through this genre-melding approach to both represent and promote a harmonious unity-through-diversity. The depth of emotion, melody and structure of Indian Classical music; the ecstatic pulse and rich, repetitious, patterns of Africa; the manifold great American forms including Jazz, Blues, Rock, Folk/Bluegrass, Fusion and beyond; all of these are deftly interwoven to produce a sound that is broad in scope, rich with intent and full of surprises.

The Plum Magnetic was formed in late 2011 out of relationships built over years of involvement in the New Orleans music scene. Trent (banjo/vocals) and Oliver (drums) met while playing in super eclectic local group Eve’s Lucky Planet and, after years of extended jams based in African, Reggae and Afro-Cuban styles, developed a unique musical bond which serves as the backbone of The Plum Magnetic’s developing sound. In considering personnel to expand the project’s line-up, Andrew McLean (guitar) was the obvious first choice. Trent and Andrew met through a shared love of Indian Classical Music; Andrew (having studied raga and tala for over a decade at the esteemed Ali Akbar Khan College of Music) as teacher and Trent as a beginner sitar student. Last but not least, the group needed a bassist and after experimenting with a few different players, Jon Solomon (founding member of Gravity A and bass player about town) was a natural fit. With his great feel and sensitivity he rounds out the sound allowing the group to present music that, though at times exceedingly complex, is always firmly rooted in the groove.

Terra Animata is a marvellous album full of a bit of everything. It’s an album that introduces the world’s sounds to you with each song initiating you with a certain country or lifestyle.

First track Spring is a track that focuses solely on the vocals with Trent singing, “Everything/Moves into spring” a few times before this song melts into the next one, Trece Leches.

Trece Leches is a relaxing, psychedelic number introducing The Plum Magnetics diversity. This is a track that showcases jazz and blues influences among its psychedelic 60s rock feel. The song is absent of vocals which allows you to become fully immersed in the music – you can hear every note, every twinge of the guitar string being plucked and the sound of fingers sliding up and down the frets. This song hints towards Andrew and Trent’s Indian Classical Music training in the way that the banjo is played – almost as if it’s a sitar.

Sweet Confusion introduces a much heavier sound to The Plum Magnetic although still remaining calming. It starts as if it will be a rock track before it settles to become a reggae number. Sweet Confusion highlights The Plum Magnetic’s startling ability to pull many different genres together into one song – each influence just seems to compliment and then melt into another. This is one of the only tracks on the record which is accompanied by vocals.

The Plum Magnetic Trent Ciolino

Trent Ciolino playing his electric six-string banjo

The Electric Jungle is a favourite on Terra Animata as it blends the psychedelic 60s sound with folk and some Indian Classical Music influences which can be heard in the tabla which features on this song. The guitar picking and strings at the start of the track carry the folk influences while the tabla introduces the Indian tinge with the drum beat, bass line and slightly sporadic melody allowing this song to capture the essence of psychedelic rock. The Electric Jungle is so captivating – it will leave you in awe of this band. It’s simply outstanding.

Sheshbesh once again focuses heavily on blues and psychedelic rock while all still managing to sound completely different from any of the previous tracks. The bass line is placed in the forefront in this track alongside the soloing guitar allowing this track to sound much more jazz and blues inspired compared to other songs on Terra Animata. The drums really highlight the jazz influences Sheshbesh while the soloing guitar carries the blues throughout.

Parallax is a blues rock number which sounds like something from the late 60s or early 70s. It has sporadic rhythms which only add to its atmosphere and depth. Once again the bass line is paramount in this track, it’s not pushed aside by the soloing guitar but perfectly complimented by it and the drums.

The Delicious is soulful, relaxing and very much a psychedelic influenced track leading to a psychedelic experience when listened to. This song will place you in a trance with its guitar riffs, dominant bass line and rhythmic yet calming drums. The other instruments featured on The Delicious such as the flute re-introduce the Indian theme. It’s these sounds that give this song its meditative effect as well as the swooping synthesised sounds towards the end of the ten minute jam.

Title track Terra Animata appears as the last song on the record. It’s an uplifting number with a much more jazz/rock feel. Trent’s vocals make another appearance on this song. It’s a brilliant song to end this superb album on – it’s full of life, melody and sing-a-long lyrics that mirror those heard in the introductory track, Spring, “Everything/Everything/Everything/Everything/Who Lives/Who Dies/There’s time to think twice/But still in the end/It comes down/To the dice…Everything/Moves into spring”.

The Plum Magnetic Andrew McLean

Andrew McLean playing guitar

Terra Animata is a fantastic album which could easily be placed into one of the most original and inspiring albums Rocking Republic has had the pleasure to hear. It sounds vintage – every song sounds like it could have been released in the 60s alongside artists like The Beatles, The Doors or Pink Floyd. If you heard these tracks on the radio, you could easily mistake them for having been released in the 60s, not today. Each song is like a jam session with incredibly passionate and enthused musicians with a thirst to create something breath-taking.

The Plum Magnetic and their album, Terra Animata, are outstanding, unique and entirely original. The Plum Magnetic is made up of musicians who have achieved something great. They are extremely talented, they know their way around instruments and most importantly, they know how genres from a wide spectrum can interact with each other to produce an artistic beauty.

Terra Animata is out now.


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