The one-man band, I must admit, is a romantic concept, whether it’s a lone vagabond traveling in a van, or by foot, who pulls out a guitar or accordion, stomping on a tambourine, or perhaps invents a more creative form of percussion. In the past few decades, with the creation and evolution of drum machine and other MIDI-devices, the one-man band has become more common – and quite a bit crass. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of laptop-towing songwriters produce great albums, but the sound doesn’t often translate to an exciting stage show, and the samples can grow tedious after a few too many listens.
And frankly, I often get the impression that most of these acts are using the sampler as a stepping-stone. They Might Be Giants didn’t take too long to adopt a full band, and Death Cab For Cutie’s You Can Play These Songs With Chords mostly served as an audition tape for Ben Gibbard to gather up a full band. To be honest, I think the sounds of both groups benefitted vastly from the addition of live musicians, especially for live performances. Yet it’s not that I’m against electronic music – I love live DJs and consider the synthesizer to be one of the best things to happen to pop music, but electronic tools can sometimes work to the detriment of the singer/songwriter approach.
I start with this obtuse foreword for a reason. When I went to see Yuck play in Indianapolis, I grabbed my first beer and a bar stool as a lone, bearded man set up his sampler and hooked an arsenal of pedals to his guitar. Naturally, I braced myself for a boring opener before what I expected to be a moving set by Yuck. Then, the sleek man exited the stage, and I took a moment to use the washroom located near the stage. Whilst, relieving myself, I was relieved to hear that the first set was in fact a full band. I heard hammering, steady drums, some steady synthesized bass, a guitar riff reminiscent of The Cure, and a heavenly falsetto soaring above the cloud of sound. When I zipped up and headed back to the crowd, I was astonished to see the sleek, bearded man, swaying in front of his pedal set up. For about half an hour, Mauro Remiddi crooned his heart out above an orchestra of sound directed by his guitar and sampler alone. At the end of his set, my only remorse is that I wished I could have heard more.
I’m pleased to say that man, Mauro Remiddi, better known as Porcelain Raft, does not disappoint on his debut album, Strange Weekend, either. All ten tracks are varied and beautiful, and the composition hardly sounds like a sample-based orchestration. In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you’d probably expect a 5-piece along the lines of M83’s current lineup.
The beats on Strange Weekend are moderate, but driving, built of layer after layer of Remiddi’s own crafty musicianship. On every track, but especially on slower jams like “Is It Too Deep For You” and “The Way In,” the production sounds as if five or six clones of Remiddi are sitting at synths and guitars, jamming and harmonizing together. And more upbeat tracks like “Put Me to Sleep” and “Drifting In & Out” have a laid back feel that will have you crooning along if you don’t watch yourself.
Both as an artist and an album, Strange Weekend serves as a striking debut for Mauro Remiddi. Bright, ethereal and buzzing with a wide array of gorgeous electronic sounds, Porcelain Raft concocts an updated form of dream-pop that’s delicate and atmospheric, but always emitting its own special kind of warmth.