REVIEW: Porcelain Raft – Strange WeekendPosted: January 26, 2012
Porcelain Raft is the chosen moniker for Mauro Remiddi to record solo material under. He has released a string of EPs throughout the past few years, and has now arrived at a pivotal point in his journey, with the release of debut LP, Strange Weekend. Previously in the band Sunny Day Sets Fire, the musician has a lot of experience both as a frontman and a composer. The album coincides with his recent support slot for M83‘s UK tour, and the comparisons between the two acts are apparent throughout.
Dream pop is a genre that I’ve covered extensively on this blog, and as far as dream pop goes, Strange Weekend is a pretty great dream pop album. Remiddi doesn’t mess with the staple criteria of the genre too dramatically, instead he mixes wistful guitars, synths, strings and electronic drum samples to form an enjoyable, enigmatic record.
Remiddi draws inspirations from a vast selection of musicians and eras. The electronic beats and drum samples are similar to the aforementioned M83, as well as some of the vocal work. The hazy, laid-back production style is akin to that of Atlas Sound, while some tracks hark back to music of the 80’s and 90’s. The thing that sets Strange Weekend apart is primarily Remiddi‘s vocal work on the album. He uses his voice dynamically, both as a way of conveying messages, and also as an instrument in its own right. The way it transforms itself throughout the album is rather unique. His androgynous tones can change dramatically from track-to-track. At times he is reminiscent of Bradford Cox, and the next he has a voice shrouded in mystery and longing.
Considering the petite length of the album, the amount of different ideas on display in Strange Weekend is quite surprising. Much like the vocals, the vibe of the tracks vary wildly throughout the ten-track LP. Remiddimakes his influences clear throughout the album; the most obvious is that of Atlas Sound. The hazy, nonchalant production shares uncanny similarities with the prolific musician. There’s hints of MIA‘s ‘Paper Planes‘ on ‘Unless You Speak From Your Heart‘, while The Cure‘s influence is apparent on album opener ‘Drifting In and Out‘. The vastly different styles on the album make it a pleasantly unpredictable record and prevent it from getting stale.
Remiddi chooses to record his music in a basement in New York rather than the more traditional way, in a recording studio. Assumptions would be made that the production quality would be affected detrimentally, but home production seems like it suits Porcelain Raft‘s lo-fi styling well. Although it wasn’t professionally recorded, it still maintains a feeling of professionalism. He obviously worked tirelessly to make the album sound as good as it could, with the layers of music mixed together meticulously so that no beat or string seems to fall out of place.
Although Strange Weekend is certainly an ambitious debut, not all of the tracks seem like they fit in as well as others. There are a few songs that feel like they were added to bump up the play-time, such as album closer, the slow-burning ‘The Way In‘. The slow, distortion filled tones of ‘The End of Silence‘ don’t really add much to the overall flow of the album either.
With Strange Weekend, Remiddi displays great potential both as a musician and producer. The debut shows great craftsmanship, production values and dynamics. It’s an album that doesn’t rely on hooks to keep the listener’s attention; instead it uses a plethora of intriguing ideas, captivating vocals and hazy, whimsical pop to demand attention. Even if not everything on the LP is executed to great effect, there’s still a lot on the album worth checking out.