Henry Plotnick
Qualia (Blue Fourteen) [CS; Blue Tapes]

Henry Plotnick sits at a freakishly talented thirteen years old, but his music can somehow feel even younger. That’s not a jab at whether or not he sounds “experienced,” or “practiced.” Actually, he doesn’t at all, which is precisely what makes his work so distinguished and engaging. Each piece Plotnick encounters is something that’s born, travels through infancy, childhood, adolescence… and by its end, like when the hisses, steams, bells and clangs of opening title track “Qualia” all converge, the music really knows what it is, who it is, and what it’s doing. Which could very well mean senile and bat-shit crazy. But in those early stages of each individual work, it always feels alien from the get-go, which is perhaps what sets Plotnick’s style apart from minimalism before it. Unlike Steve Reich’s work for example, Plotnick purposefully sounds like he’s stumbling into a semblance of regularity with regards to rhythm, melody, and harmony. “Mechanolatry” begins with what sounds like five or six acoustic string voices blindly feeling their way around one another, as if just opening their eyes for the first time, blinking and squinting to adjust to the light of a new world… Born into song. And by the time of its chaotic climax, the confusion is as palpable as ever - like all these once-children are now members of the crazed elderly, jabbering back and forth and over one another in coherent-nonsense.

You hate to pin an artist’s age to them as a defining feature, and indeed it’s not some kind of explanation as to why I’m sitting here writing about its novelty. It just happens that the elements of Plotnick’s music — his cleverly incorporated melodies and unique phrasings, the textures he so naturally pairs with one another — sound so much like wondrous discovery, frustrating trial-and-error, and ultimately hands-throw-in-the-air exasperation, that its association to age is hard to ignore. But while I don’t invite folks to point and stare and gawk and giggle at the boy-genius that is Henry Plotnick, at the same time I also can’t help but wonder what he’ll be up to in the decades to come.


Cerberus seeks to document the spate of home recorders and backyard labels pressing limited-run LPs, 7-inches, cassettes, and objet d’art with unique packaging and unknown sound. We love everything about the overlooked or unappreciated. If you feel you fit such a category, email us here.

Most Read