Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend (2012)

So, let’s crack on with our first review, something that I wouldn’t be able to post on Onlyambient; the debut LP of Mauro Remiddi under his Porcelain Raft alias, Strange Weekend.

Prior to last week, Porcelain Raft was unknown to me; I went to see M83’s gig here in Birmingham where he was the support act and I enjoyed his performance enough to check out some of his work. Just a few days later he dropped this on us, the culmination of several years and several EP’s worth of work and what a result. Clocking in at an accessible 34 minutes and yet shoehorning 10 tracks into its slender frame, Remiddi has created the maximum bang-for-your buck album, being efficient but not skimping out on emotional punch.

Hovering precipitously on the edge of chillwave, Remiddi’s debut LP wraps his androgynous vocals around two contrasting styles here; one, an acoustic, downtempo dream pop, the other a more restless and urgent synth pop. As with the opener “Drifting In And Out” and my personal favourite “Put Me To Sleep”, the tracks are driven forward predominantly by whirling synth but also a maximalist hodge-podge of other textures, from claps and clicks to tambourines and bells. More hushed tones are brought in with an almost M83-esque  “If You Have A Wish” as well as the impassioned “The End Of Silence” during the second half, bringing us down from the relative high established at the beginning. The gentle lo-fi reverb applied to Remiddi’s vocals obscures them in a soft haze of noise, often forcing them to become more textural elements. In “Backwords” for instance I can barely make out what he’s singing, but the whole tone and feel is just gorgeous and so drenched in melancholy it doesn’t matter, the message is imparted regardless.

Despite the facade during the beginning there is a strong sense of wistfulness and melancholy here, half-stories of lovers lost and places left, but there is no sense of resignation here from 40 year old Remiddi; little snippets of lyrics like “how great is it to live in a brand new world?” show a sense of progression and hopefulness for the future. Yet everything about the production of this album leaves questions unanswered; the way tracks just terminate makes it feel incomplete and unfinished, and the finalé “The Way In” leaves us hankering for closure. Then again, if we are to suggest that this is some kind of semi-autobiographic representation of his life, perhaps these little nuances and quirks make sense and perhaps we will even be allowed to see/hear more of it later.

For an album made in a basement in NY, this is a truly excellent, heartfelt release from Porcelain Raft, a great way to kick off 2012. And given this only took him a few weeks to record, maybe we’ll be seeing more of him in the near future.

8/10

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