Album Review: Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend

PORCELAIN RAFT
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B+ | 01.24.11 | Secretly Canadian | Stream | MP3 | CD | Vinyl

Maybe the greatest criticism of Mauro Remiddi’s first full-length record as Porcelain Raft, Strange Weekend, is that he can’t make up his mind what kind of songwriter he is. This is also probably his greatest strength – Remiddi’s jockeying between maximalist, synthesized chamber indie, hazy dance music, borderline art-dubstep chopped-and-screwed beats and drones, and mixtape-closing reverby guitar pop make Strange Weekend endlessly compelling, fascinatingly layered, and never predictable. And with predictability being the pothole so many lo-fi pop artists fall disappointingly into – yes, reverb-drenched vocals, we know; yes, outer-space synth drones, we know – Remiddi’s having a finger in every pot is what makes this album great, such a standout, and an early contender for one of the best debuts of 2012.

Remiddi might be an unpredictable songwriter but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a pretty damn good one – he spends all of his time cultivating a driving, electric, and thoroughly updated take on chillwave, one with enough seriously smart pop melodies and seriously tangible bass heartbeats to root his palpable waves of haze in a unique place that’s often pretty unchill. The way Washed Out’s genre-defining Life of Leisure sounded like the last night of your debaucherous seaside vacation in 1980s Ibiza, Strange Weekend sounds like the whole vacation blurred together into beachbound, stoned aural nostalgia.

“Drifting In and Out” (the opening track it’s all too easy to get stuck putting on repeat – we know this because we’re guilty) is like “Sun Was High (So Was I)” era Best Coast, all sun-blinded, day-drunk brilliant fuzz on droning synths (can’t get enough of that fade-in, which sounds like the electronic version of Yuck’s “Rubber”), winding guitars, and choir vocals; the song’s last lyric is “Don’t you worry, now.” And just when you think you can see where Remiddi’s going, he follows “Drifting In and Out” right up with a guitar-driven, slow-burning, anthem called “Shapeless & Gone,” which sounds like it’s title and evokes the image of the late, great John Lennon. Not before long, we get to “Is It Too Deep For You?” which borrows its skittering, echoed drum machine from UK’s artiest dubstep and its fingerpicked guitar and paranoid vocal haze from somewhere else entirely. Then there’s “Unless You Speak From Your Heart,” which sounds like hazy bedroom pop update of Grizzly Bear’s late Aught’s classic “Two Weeks,” and “The End of Silence,” which does with a “Be My Baby” drumbeat what you probably haven’t heard anyone do with a “Be My Baby” drumbeat before.

It’s hard to do new things in a genre with such niche components, and this is where Remiddi’s schizophrenic songwriting allows him to create such refreshing music. The all-too-short collection he’s put to disc as Strange Weekend is one of the best home recorded releases in a long time because it does all it can to bring something new to the table, and resoundingly succeeds.

Stream ‘Strange Weekend’ in its entirety here.

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