on 23 January 2012
They say you should never sound exactly like your record collection, something particularly true if you only have an ordinary collection. Happily, having upped sticks from Rome to London and then to New York, not to mention enjoying shifts playing folkloric gypsy tunes with the Berlin Youth Circus, forming and folding indie-pop outfit Sunny Day Sets Fire, dabbling in traditional North Korean music and maintaining a brief piano tenure for a tap dance show along the way, Mauro Remiddi is anything but ordinary.
Presumably he also has a remarkable record collection as a result too, but Strange Weekend isn't the pan-global mess you might therefore expect. True to the excellent and varied Porcelain Raft releases to date, Strange Weekend is instead always good quality, sometimes loop-led, usually electronic-influenced, one-man singer-songwriting of the laptronic dream-pop variety.
A mouthful that, but Remiddi is more succinct when he atmospherically simpers that "This is not a dream / This is for real" on his all-too-brief and cavernous closer. Reality bites into Remiddi's oneiric realm courtesy of his lovelorn vocal mew, which though disquieting nevertheless manages to retain its warmth.
Put to good use on the hazy, lazy opener "Drifting In and Out", this distinct voice, along with a clean beat and peels of chiming guitar, helps cement Porcelain Raft as a far more striking prospect than the not-too-dissimilar intangible ambience of fellow Italian expat Alessio Natalizia and his take-them-or-leave-them vehicles Banjo Or Freakout and Walls.
More traditional to the singer-songwriting genre, "Shapeless and Gone" is built on textbook strumming, but Remiddi opts to coat his strings in close, soporific synth patterns that together give the track an almost Suede-like indie vibe. Remiddi's slow and emotive tempos frequently seem to enjoy post-rock-indebted climaxes, often starting life as little more than people-friendly glitch. And though lulls in Strange Weekend`s running order are present, these less memorable moments are nevertheless unafraid of resorting to such surging crescendos in order to save the day.
With its heavy heartbeat, `Is It Too Deep For You?' is far more direct. Its spacious construct quickly evolves into a tender and impressive exercise in synth-drone, acoustic guitar bedecked with sample chatter and various shimmering FX. Equally determined, the standout "Unless You Speak From Your Heart" - not far from rivalling the wonderful "Talk To Me" from previous EP Gone Blind - steps out smartly with a crisp beat, the edges of which Remeddi blurs out with tambourine, synth smudges and an ever-increasing selection of soft-palette sounds.
Whether the extraordinary Strange Weekend sounds like Remiddi's personal collection is up for debate. What is not is that it's a strong enough album to be a welcome addition to most, be them in Rome, New York or even Pyongyang.
Advised downloads: "Is It Too Deep For You?" and "Unless You Speak From Your Heart".