Porcelain Raft Porcelain RaftStrange Weekend
The stage name chosen by Italian Mauro Remiddi suggests the image of something fragile, delicate, meekly descending into crystal clear waters. The pop music he creates is entirely appropriate to the moniker: clear and shining, with songs that roll along in a logical way - good choruses formed between arrangements that pursue the irresistible impact of beauty at all cost. His world is a familiar one, therefore: uplifting harmonies, soft guitars and electronic beats that stay stealthily in the background, hiding in the realm between intimate and epic. This is why Porcelain Raftis so often compared to a fledgling M83 – a new arrival on the indie-pop scene - why he gets labelled dream-pop and is linked to the latest chill-wave generation, alongside Active Child and Washed Out (who he bears more than reasonable resemblance to). There's some truth in all of it, sure: Remiddi sings with a quiet voice - protecting it with a crystal clear recording- the sounds around him stretch out, looking for ephemeral ecstasy, and there are times they achieve just that (on the single “Put Me To Sleep” for example).
However, Porcelain Raft still lacks the experience to leave a deep impression on the hearts of the sensitive youth. “ Strange Weekend" is an LP that holds the ambition to create something timeless; but the traces of its many influences don’t quite fit - some don't even match the concept (that Brett Anderson-like voice on “S hapeless & Gone”, for example, is not as interesting as the Flaming Lips sound surrounding it; the same thing happens on “Backwords”). It's not that I have something against early Suede, far from it, but the tone Porcelain Raft seems to be looking for is magic, otherworldly, rather than glamorous and affected (by the way, doesn't he look like “Faith”-era George Michael?) – furthermore, reaching that ideal stage of precious un-reality takes some time. You can hear he's been working hard (listen to the two minutes of “ If You Have A Wish”; with the guitars comes sunlight, alongside gentle beats), but there are moments when the songs still sound as though they are in a stage of preparation - without too much evolution in the production and, most notably, often very similar to each other (if you listen closely, “Picture” sounds like a first draft of “ Shapeless & Gone”).
Regardless, watch out: Porcelain Raft is a diamond in the rough, making a decent debut that’s lagging only slightly behind the most promising new releases. There are ten songs on “ Strange Weekend” , but only four peek around the corner to the sublime: “ The Way In”, “ Drifting In And Out” (with that bassline borrowed from New Order), “ Put Me To Sleep” and “Is It Too Deep For You?” – a piece of instrumental downtempo, where you can see the contours of what could be brilliant songs by Beach House or Washed Out. The conclusion is simple: “Strange Weekend” is an enjoyable album carrying the weight of its own irregularity. There are some notable high points, but then minutes without any spark. Regardless, there is something boiling - something better, with refined emotions, some good decisions and the outlines of more a dazzling release. The Porcelain Raft is well crafted, but it lacks some rococo handles and a lick of paint. In other words: he needs a good producer. Keep an eye out for that second album.