Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend

I first heard Porcelain Raft on Resonance Fm, the avant-garde arts radio station with connections to Wire magazine. However, I first heard Mauro Remiddi, the man behind Porcelain Raft, in indie pop group Sunny Day Sets Fire, a band who threw melodies in your face like custard pies. Unsurprisingly, Remiddi’s debut album as Porcelain Raft is a grand combination of these two introductions; a pop record unafraid to experiment.

Having spent nearly three decades travelling across Europe and the US recording tapes of music and performing in various bands, ensembles and even circuses, Remiddi has finally put out an - if you like - ‘official’ solo record. But whilst the music he picked up on his travels undoubtedly flows subconsciously from the capsules of his memory, Strange Weekend remains spectacularly fresh and modern.

Remiddi kicks off Strange Weekend with a spinning piece of electronica that, like its title, drifts in and out. The album gets properly under way however with ‘Shapeless & Gone’, a burst of colourful psychadelia that is not unlike Secretly Canadian label mates The War on Drugs. Its mesmerising guitar line and resilient beat assist Remiddi’s vocals that, on this song particularly, draw comparisons to those of Andrew VanWyngarden on MGMT’s sophomore album Congratulations. His musical influences become clear on songs like ‘Put Me to Sleep’, which recalls 80’s new wave, and ‘The End of Silence’, a track that uses ‘that classic’ Phil Spector drum rhythm (bum-ba-bum tsh, if you like) but in Remiddi’s own processed and skewed way.

Whilst much of the record focuses around Remiddi’s production trickery and versatility, closing tracks ‘The Way In’ and ‘Picture’ prove that this is a record for both the head and the heart, with the formers sentimental lyrics (“you don’t need help, you can make it for yourself”) becoming drowned in warm and inviting synthesizers. ‘The Way In’ sounds somewhat like the soundtrack to a drive through a snowy winter’s night, and even evokes the schmaltzy 80’s pop of Wet Wet Wet and Deacon Blue. It’s effect is that of a lullaby, lulling in the end of the album.

For all its successes, Strange Weekend does have its faults. ‘If You Have a Wish’ is forgettable to say the least, and for the most part, ‘Is It Too Deep for You’ is repetitive and grating. These moments are partially obscured by the intrigue and depth that Remiddi brings with his production and ambience, yet I can’t help but feel that something is missing. A distinction, a lasting effect (maybe even a clichéd ‘wow’ factor), but nonetheless a moment of brilliance that makes an appearance on ‘Shapeless & Gone’ seemingly doesn’t return. If it does, it is slightly diluted, or less effective. Strange Weekend does however manage to come away feeling like a good pop record, and whilst it may not last a life time, it is at least an enjoyable and interesting listen.


By William Hall

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