Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Album Review: Porcelain Raft - Permanent Signal

Porcelain Raft
Permanent Signal
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

New York via Rome, Italy producer Mauro Remiddi, who records and performs under the name Porcelain Raft, draws from a variety of influences including dream pop, shoegaze, new wave, chillwave, darkwave, and synth pop to craft his own unique sound that quickly came to fruition with his debut record Strange Weekend. While I took a liking to that record, the everything but the kitchen sink style of genre hopping got a little wearying over the course of a full album, and it made me wish Remiddi would stick to his strong suits, as on the whirlygig psychedelia of "Unless You Speak From The Heart" or the shoegaze dreampop of "Drifting In And Out." But I saw what Remiddi was trying to accomplish his first go around, and chalked it up to him wanting to acknowledge every type of music that spoke to his heart. After a strange, but eerily beautiful EP of ambient synth instrumentals Silent Speech, Remiddi is back with his second proper full length Permanent Signal. There is not much of change from the first record this go around. Remiddi still has an amazing attention to detail, and Permanent Signal is nothing if not impeccably produced, however, ultimately it suffers from lack of direction and vision, the constant stylistic jumps tending to alienate rather than wrap one up in its lush, warm cocoon.

Which is disappointing considering the opening two tracks on Permanent Signal are so brilliantly conceived and executed that for a short moment I was expecting this record to be a masterpiece. "Think of the Ocean" is a gorgeous, slow-building opener that draws from its insistent analog synth drones, strings, and lonely piano, cresting into a wash of synths and Remiddi's aching croon. The song appears to be about identity and the struggle we go through in life with how we present ourselves to others, the lyrics stating "See all the places that felt like home, rise above now/It's an illusion, is it all in my brain?/Am I going insane?"

Leading into the brilliant track "Cluster," drawing from the Cure's bag of tricks with descending chords and lush synth strings.

Unfortunately, Remiddi has nowhere to go but down from here. Not that Permanent Signal is an embarrassment or anything, it is still a perfectly decent pop record, it is just that the promise of these two opening tracks is not met. The only other tracks that comes even close are first single "The Way Out" which is an amazing drone/dream pop song with soaring guitars, pounding beats, and an assortment of odd samples (including what sounds like manipulating horse whinnying),

and the languid, guitar interplay on "Night Birds."

There are a couple of other interesting side-experiments, like the Spiritualized-esque number "Minor Pleasure"

and the synthpop track "It Ain't Over."

But the rest of the album fails to make much of an impression as Remiddi focuses less on melody and more towards atmosphere (which might be a holdover from his EP Silent Speech), with the back stretch of the record mired in mindless piano noodling ("Warehouse"), pure ambient synth washes ("Five Minutes From Now"), and almost too delicate ballads ("Echo").

But even with those missteps, there is still something overall charming with Permanent Signal that makes you want to like it. Had Remeddi taken the best 5 tracks on here and released them as an EP, we might be looking at one of the best releases of the year, however, as a full length there is far too much filler here that ultimately drags it down. There is a brilliant record waiting to come out from Porcelain Raft, unfortunately, Permanent Signal is merely a view into what might have been.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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