When you think of the best contemporary bedroom pop, songs as gently spellbinding as Wild Nothing’s “Chinatown” or as sleepily ecstatic as Craft Spells’ “After the Moment”, you often think of a certain conceit. It’s a conceit undergirding the music, giving it four walls, a roof, and a ceiling just like the bedrooms that this music supposedly emanates from. It’s a conceit that claims some suburban dreamer, from atop a bed that hasn’t been made for weeks, bathed in moonlight, lamplight, or some combination of the two can create vast multiverses of emotion. A synth swell signifies a sea rising and lifting you up; a chiming guitar some deep cavern only growing deeper. However, while it’s there undergirding the music, you know it’s a trick, a swathe of wool pulled over your eyes. In Microclimate, Mauro Remiddi’s third LP as Porcelain Raft following 2012’s Strange Weekend and 2013’s Permanent Signal, you’re convinced otherwise. This is bedroom pop that transports you to strange vistas made by a brilliant loner in a frigid room.
“Distant Shore”, one of the most resplendent vistas here, finds Remiddi melding ’80s histrionics and indie attitude to arrive at a sound that is simultaneously ponderous, gigantic, foreboding, and tragic. His voice — a reedy, featherlight croon that’s built up from that breaking point where a shy soul needs to express itself to survive — seems in jeopardy of being drowned by the synthesizers swirling around it, but that’s exactly what makes it so captivating. “I can hear it now / The sound of a distant shore,” Remiddi sings, urging you to turn up the volume, to let yourself drown in wistfulness and hope and heartbreak so that you can hear this shore with him. It’s a song of infinite scale; it wouldn’t be out of place on M83’s Saturdays = Youth or Wild Nothing’s Nocturne. By its third minute, when Remiddi’s voice is finally submerged into the crescendoing expanse of the music, you realize that, whether you intended to or not, you’ve been drifting toward the shore he’s envisioned the whole time.
“The Earth Before Us”, while standing at a slight 1:28, also boasts a melody that evokes an indefinable place somewhere between timorousness and nothing-to-lose ambition. Even the more restrained tracks — the contemplative “Rising”, the crystalline “Bring Me to the River”, the too-big-for-the-big-screen “Kookaburra” — have a sense of stirring melodrama. Listening, Remiddi invites you into a high-stakes emotional space where finding love means entering an alien world you’ve never seen before and losing it means a long, slow death. It’s unclear which of these two fates he barreling toward in “Rolling Over”, but he’s barreling toward something, toward somewhere, someone: “My hands are numb and I can barely talk,” he sings, a tiptoeing piano motif picking up speed behind him and becoming a full-on march. The lyrics are ambiguous, but the music’s statement is unequivocal: Remiddi doesn’t know where he’s going, but he’s moving on.
Throughout, Remiddi is preoccupied with the idea of place: of places he’s been, places he’s going, places he’s dreamed of, places he’ll never inhabit and places he’ll never see again. More often than not, these aren’t places you can walk across or plant a flag in; rather, they’re abstract emotional places that Remiddi imagines and invites you into for a while. But perhaps that’s not true; perhaps Microclimate‘s conceit is that, while these are deeply personal places for Remiddi, imagined and expressed by him, reified through lyrics that gaze out windows and synthesizers that traverse seas, they become places that we can make our own.