Posted by: Jeff | February 23, 2012

Album Review: Porcelain Raft – “Strange Weekend”

Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend [Buy Here]

Secretly Canadian
Released: February 2012
Grade: A-

Porcelain Raft – ‘Put Me To Sleep’

Debut releases always inspire comparisons, and Porcelain Raft is no exception.  The exquisite dream-pop offering by 37-year-old Londoner Mauro Remiddi is garnering comparisons to a diverse array of artists and trends including shoegaze, dubstep, Pink Floyd, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and John Lennon.  To my mind, his closest compatriot might be Youth Lagoon, the highly-regarded 2011 upstart famous for being a 22-year-old who recorded his album in his Idaho bedroom.

Which is all to say that Porcelain Raft hits a lot of good buttons and is a startlingly refreshing debut – a statement that seems silly in light of the fact that Remiddi has been a musician all his life.  Yet this is his first output as Porcelain Raft, and it’s a wonderful offering.  The initial thrum of drum machine on opener “Drifting in and Out” immediately sets the toe to tapping, and the thrum of synth literally does drift in and out in the background of dreamily-delivered vocals.  The feeling is nostalgic and modern all at once, the melodies both familiar and fresh.

Remiddi offers some great sonic textures, juxtaposing light acoustic guitar with washed out synths and periodic stabs of electric guitar cutting through the fog.  Vocally, Remiddi draws to mind yet another comparison – to “Screamadelica”-era Primal Scream, though the somewhat androgynous delivery also lends comparison to Beach House’s Victoria Legrande or m83’s Anthony Gonzalez.

“Put Me To Sleep”, one of the stronger moments on the record, is one long, slow crescendo of synth and crashing percussion that captures the appeal of shoegaze – the dreamy, atmospheric wall of sound that envelopes the listener and draws them into the song itself.  By the time standout “Backwords” begins this is already a memorable album – evocative, atmospheric, introspective.  “Backwords” is nothing short of breath-taking, starting with a quiet wash of synth and strum of acoustic guitar before slowly adding additional layers.  Shimmery high synths and the overwhelming swell of electric guitar precede a wonderfully atmospheric finale that ends in reverberation and Washed Out (another comparison!) synth.

“Unless You Speak From Your Heart” could be classified as something of a chillwave dance track by comparison, and Remiddi evens tries falsetto on for a turn.  Later, “Picture” evokes alt-country singer-songwriter classicism (e.g. War on Drugs), showing that Remiddi may have a lot of influences and musical peers, but he’s avoided being reined in by any of them.  The diversity on display on “Strange Weekend” is impressive, making this a truly impressive debut.

For fans of: Beach House, The Cure, Youth Lagoon, Primal Scream, m83, OMD

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