It’s unlikely that you’ll hear a back story as cool as Mauro Remiddi’s. Before he began to record as Porcelain Raft, Remiddi traveled from his native Italy to London, Berlin, North Korea and finally New York. Along the way, he caravanned with the Berlin Youth Circus performing gypsy Klezmer music, created reinterpretations of traditional North Korean folk songs and played piano for an Off-Broadway tap show. He hasn’t even had his 30th birthday yet, but Remiddi has more musical experiences under his belt than many artists attain in the length of an entire career.
You might consider Strange Weekend, Porcelain Raft’s debut LP, a sonic catalog of these places and sounds: a musical work in constant transit from point A to point B but making lots of side-trips and detours along the way. Genre-wise, it’s difficult to pin down: Billowing clouds of dream-pop synths cloak Remiddi’s fragile wisp of a voice but against nontraditional partners like tribal drums and jangly shoegaze guitars. The common factor holding these unusual musical bedfellows together is an undeniably catchy melodic sensibility most immediately recalling the hazy pop of MGMT.
Even though many listeners may be struck by the initial similarities, Remiddi’s sharp creative wits prevent comparison from being the main talking point here. Lead single “Put Me To Sleep” carries a thin stream of harmonies along on a clattering, cymbal-and-bells drum pattern, the layers of drum samples practically tripping over each other in something that sounds like the delightfully primordial stages of a break-beat song. “Picture,” on the other hand, frames a simple, catchy, four-chord guitar ballad in a vast, echoing soundscape.
More laid-back tracks are no less infectious. “Backwords” and “Shapeless And Gone” bathe sun-faded psych-pop songs in ambient synth loops and wailing guitars: lazy, engrossing, like a nap on the beach on a hot day. As relaxing as these cuts are, they would be downright boring if left to roam in the traditional six-minute-plus running time of other experimental acts. Fortunately, Remiddi knows the art of song length, crafting the 10 tracks on Strange Weekend to have space for dynamic development but still fit into a lean, accessible, 34-minute package. The LP’s shortness also invites repeat listens, with every play-through revealing another quirk hiding in the framework. It wasn’t until my fourth or fifth listen that I truly appreciated how the sleigh bells and glitchy 8-bit blips on “If You Have A Wish” complemented the track’s dreamy, astral atmosphere.
Strange Weekend is an album with a finger in every type of pot imaginable: cultural, musical, aesthetic. Most of the time, attempts to capture large swaths of sounds and ideas result in an unfocused mess. But in the case of Remiddi and his “How I Spent My 27 Years Around the World” project, listeners can now witness a rare breed of debut album, one that takes on the lofty task of musical multitasking and succeeds.