Porcelain Raft, aka London-via-Italy bedroom composer Mauro Remiddi, obviously preferred a lo-fi, demo-like aesthetic for his 2011 debut EP, Gone Blind. That promising release previewed an attraction for Swedish indie-pop ("Tip of Your Tongue"), John Lennon's razor- sharp poignance ("Dragonfly"), an overall sense of T. Rex glam, and even some darkwave noise on "Talk to Me."
All of those tracks were dipped neck-deep in a bath or reverb and static. Thankfully, Remiddi's reedy voice was the constant light shining through the haze. The 38-year old songwriter once played with indie-pop band Sunny Day Sets Fire, so he knows his way around a melody. That opening salvo augured a deep, unabiding adoration for home recording.
Like many indie musicians before him, Porcelain Raft's debut album for Secretly Canadian, sees him returning to his pop roots, but keeping one foot in the lo-fi world. The beatific and ephemeral Strange Weekend may have been recorded in a Brooklyn basement, but's it's an altogether glossier and more focused affair. This is dream-pop with a soul behind it.
The chiming and gauzy lead cut, "Drifting In and Out" takes the blueprint of previous Porcelain Raft earworms and turns up the mix. Every looped sound and buzzing synth crashes over the vocals and the guitars fill the speakers. "Shapeless and Gone" follows with a heavy acoustic strum reminiscent of T. Rex's "Cosmic Dancer." Remiddi sings "feels like the first time" with a purr and the titular chorus is sung in a heavenly falsetto that turns into the ether. Every element is in just the right place.
"Is It Too Deep For You" recalls Gone Blind's darker second half with a thrashing beat and shaker percussion that echoes in the distance. The vocals are clearer than normal Porcelain Raft tunes and it suits the moody new wave track. Shadowy and loverlorn power ballad "Backwords" is excellent for different reasons. An acoustic strum starts the new wave journey and the starry eyed chorus sees the kind of fluffy liftoff befitting a scene from The NeverEnding Story. Both this and "Put Me to Sleep" show a compositional acuity that Gone Blind only hinted at in fits and starts.
"Unless You Speak From the Heart" starts like it will blast a hip-hop jam, but what unfolds before the listener is even stronger. The song is butressed by a strong beat, which is blurred on the edges by tambourine and synths. A pillowy softness presides over this laptronic collection. "The End of Silence" and "If You Have a Wish," however, suffer from a langor that can't be overcome. They are lifeless and even Remiddi’s vocals drag along the bottom of the uninspired mix. A wandering guitar squall kind of saves "The End of Silence."
Porcelain Raft's Strange Weekend might not be the leap forward its creator was hoping for, but it sets out and accomplishes each goal in an unfussy, muted fashion. This fastidious mentality manages to keep this song suite afloat, even if the sails aren't always full of creative wind.
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