I tend to romanticize the idea of the lone musician. Alone, with nothing more than the tools of his or her trade(laptop, guitar, keyboard, microphone), the desire to create and the need to share that creation with the rest of the world. Within his or her safe place, be it a bedroom, living room or basement, the artist is free to express their ideas, emotions and heart through the intimacy of songwriting. There have been many of these musicians over the years that have gone the route of the studio hermit. Rather than surround themselves with musicians and collaborators, they take the lonely road and play every part. Overdubbing track after track, tweaking and fading, equalizing and compressing, fading in and fading out, adding and removing parts, till what they hear in their head is what they hear in their ears. Chillwave, a term I'm not particularly fond of, is a community of bedroom tweakers and laptop composers that are very much in the category of the lone wolf. Their self imposed solitary confinement to the bedroom, laptop, and Roland Juno-106 is out of necessity. These are the composers of the 21st century. They no longer need a symphony or music hall to display their art. They merely need a $30 music program and a laptop with a decent size hard drive. The keyboard is their symphony and the internet is their music hall.
Amongst the many artists to be included in this group, Porcelain Raft are one of the newer faces. The sole member, Londoner by way of Italy Mauro Remiddi, has a talent for creating dream-like soundscapes and lush arrangements that pull together both modern and classic synth pop. Strange Weekend's opening track, `Drifting In And Out' has a woozy modulated synth sound moving back and forth as Remiddi's heavily effected vocals sing not over the sound, but as another instrument. 'Shapeless & Gone' opens with light percussion and a strummed acoustic with Remiddi singing as if he's at a campfire in a cavernous region of Mars. `Is It Too Deep For You' is a lilting track with layered vocals, quiet, plucked guitar and spaced out echo. This is a standout track with buzzing drone underneath the calm and longing. `Put Me To Sleep' has almost a Love and Rockets vibe, especially in the vocal delivery. Something that could've played on 120 Minutes back in 1988 quite comfortably.
As much as Porcelain Raft wants to play with the cool kids(Neon Indian, Washed Out, Toro Y Moi among others), Mauro Remiddi has loftier goals for Porcelain Raft. This is good and bad. Good in that he wants to write songs that have more of a mass appeal, not just for the acid blotter crowd(I'm looking at your Alan Palomo) or the hipster crowd(hello, Ernest Greene). But bad in that he at times goes into more Vangelis meets Erasure territory, bordering on schmaltzy ballads. `Backwords' is pretty, but its syrupy-sweet keys and echoed handclaps make me have 7th grade dance flashbacks. 'The Way In', Strange Weekend's final track suffers from Air Supply-itis. It's too pretty for its own good. Fortunately a track like `Unless You Speak From Your Heart' saves the day with it's descending keyboard and falsetto vocals. This is how a ballad should sound.
In the overrun world of chillwave and laptop Brian Wilsons, Porcelain Raft is a welcome addition. He brings a pop finesse to a genre that could use a bit more of it.