Porcelain Raft: Strange Weekend

Photo: Jennifer Medina

This compelling collection of DIY indie pop feels more like a culmination that a debut.

Porcelain Raft

Strange Weekend

Label: Secretly Canadian
US Release Date: 2012-01-24

Mauro Remiddi is a true citizen of the world. He has spent his life in constant motion, traveling from his homeland of Italy across Europe, Asia and the Americas, and this hunger for movement and exploration is apparent in Remiddi’s journey as a musician as well. He has performed gypsy Klezmer music as a member of the Berlin Youth Circus, studied and reinterpreted traditional music in North Korea, played piano for an Off Broadway tap dance show, penned Italian film scores, and fronted the London based indie pop band Sunny Day Sets Fire. Over the last few years, Remiddi has reinvented himself yet again as Porcelain Raft, settling in New York and composing a series of effects laden, loop based bedroom pop releases that have increasingly piqued the interest of fans and critics alike.

Porcelain Raft’s debut full length Strange Weekend is a compelling collection of shimmering DIY indie pop that manages to sound both timeless and very of the moment. In its melding of beat heavy, reverb drenched electronics with traditional pop song craft, it stands alongside contemporary acts such as MGMT, Neon Indian, and current tour mate M83. But there are also echoes here of the forebears of today’s pop innovators, reaching all the way back to John Lennon and David Bowie, as well as more recent electronically oriented indie acts such as Air and Folk Implosion. This blending of past and present makes listening to Strange Weekend feel like leafing through scrapbook images of past travels from a present moment that is still vibrant and full of life.

Opening track “Drifting in and Out” sets the tone of the album with all of Remiddi’s strengths as a songwriter on full display. Shuffling drum machine patterns propel through swirling synth pads and fuzzed out guitars while Remiddi weaves his wonderfully androgynous vocals through the haze. This is Porcelain Raft at their blissfully sedated best, cloaking instantly infectious pop melodies in a warm, narcotic blanket of sound. Other songs that stand out in a similar fashion include the singles “Put Me to Sleep,” and “Unless You Speak from Your Heart.” The former floats along on a steady, pulsing backbeat and muted acoustic guitar strumming, with Remiddi’s soothing, half whispered lyrics beckoning: “Would you do something for me / Do something for me / Would you put me to sleep / Put me to sleep”. While the latter constructs the album’s most memorable melodic moment by channeling the ghost of John Lennon as the front man for a twenty-first century chillwave band. There are moments of deeply introspective beauty here as well. “The End of Silence” sees Remiddi’s vocals take an impassioned and affecting turn over a sparse, steady rhythm and reverberating open guitar chords. And “Backwords” marries acoustic balladry with orchestral synthesizer swells for an engulfing sound that is, yes, a little bit cheesy, but also sad, gorgeous, and refreshingly genuine.

At 37 years old, Remiddi doesn’t quite fit the profile of your average up and coming DIY bedroom pop artist. In many ways, this album feels more like a culmination than a debut, and Remiddi’s vast and varied musical experience infuse his songs with a sense of confidence and craftsmanship that is often lacking in the work of his younger and less experienced peers. The other element that sets this album apart is Remiddi’s highly refined production aesthetic — there is nothing lo-fi about it, unlike some of the artist’s previous work as Porcelain Raft. Rather, Strange Weekend is a testament to the increasingly professional production capabilities of home recording artists, and it’s a good move for Remiddi, whose unique talent for finding grandeur in simplicity is revealed throughout the album.

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