Saturday, August 18, 2012

Porcelain Raft creates hazy dream world that envelops your psyche

I saw Mauro Remiddi open for Yuck when I went to see them last fall. The Italian mastermind and sole member of Porcelain Raft presented a sound that was driven by an impressive array of tape loops and playback. It actually felt as if the music were hitting you, as if it were a draft through a window.

What he communicated most to me through his music, however, was that it had a very calming effect. His set was very relaxing, dreamlike and blissful, and his debut album Strange Weekend magnificently captures all of these qualities.

Strange Weekend is very mellow; it's free floating and transcendent like water vapor evaporating from tree leaves after a springtime rain. Remeddi's voice floats through the mist, sounding rather androgynous but at the same time warm and inviting. There is a touch of soul present in his vocals, which creates an interesting sound when backed by the fuzzy wall of indie pop distortion.

The heavy layer of feedback that opens "Drifting in and Out" sets the tone for the album, but there is diversity. There are a couple of numbers more heavily focused around acoustics, such as "Picture," which is the most blissfully chilled out song I've heard since Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. "Unless You Speak From Your Heart," meanwhile, displaces the veil of fuzz altogether, focusing instead on jangly pop guitar and relying on the endearing quality of Remiddi's voice.

There is a sense of intimacy in his lyrics as well; they are often phrased as a direct challenge or a piece of advice to the listener. "Is It Too Deep For You" sees Remiddi urge the listener not to fear taking chances, while "Unless You Speak From Your Heart," is about finding your own voice. At times, his lyrics can even become surreal without sacrificing their ability to be quaint and engaging. On the final line in "Backwords," Remiddi reveals: "I read the news about someone that could only talk backwords/ Strange enough I thought about you."

Strange Weekend is an enlightening portrait of how one man can create dense soundscapes rife with depth and emotion, and yet still create a work that feels personal and intimate. There's no doubt that Porcelain Raft is one of the top new artists of the year, and one of the most pleasant surprises of 2012.

Score: 81/100

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