Porcelain Raft - Strange Weekend

by Steve Rhodes Rating:5.5 Release Date:2012-01-23

Former Sunny Day Sets Fire lead Mauro Remiddi first caught my attention in his solo guise as Porcelain Raft towards the end of 2010, performing an excellent, intriguing set at Manchester's In the City conference. He followed this with 'Tip of My Tongue', a charming simple song which left the listener wanting more. Hot on the heels of a UK Tour backing M83, his debut LP Strange Weekend has emerged, but rather than building on the early promise, it sadly falls flat.

On much of the album, Mauro pursues a fuzzy, drum-machine backed direction, with occasional electronics and guitar interruptions, and a light, echo-laden vocal. Hardly ground-breaking, but it works in places. 'Is It Too Deep for You' takes the 'Tip Of My Tongue' template of soft, hushed vocals, to a simple, electronic-looped backing. The chorus feels akin to mid-period Talk Talk with Mauro barracking out the title in a similar manner to 'Life's What You Make It'.

'Backwords' has a slower pace, with a delicate and calm atmosphere and shimmering electronics. Like Fuck Buttons' 'Olympians' re-imagined by Feargal Sharkey, it is a delightfully serene and relaxed song. The more upbeat 'Unless You Speak From the Heart', with its Alice In Wonderland meets MGMT/Late of the Pier inspirations, also stands out, but the main problem is the lifelessness of a large portion of the album, with songs that fail to deliver a much-needed injection of direction.

'Put Me to Sleep' is a nice pastiche of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and it's line "Would you do something for me, would you put me to sleep", could be a pleasant call for assisted euthanasia, but it suffers from monotony, with the title sadly being very apt. This is shared by the cosmic giddiness of both 'Drifting in and Out' and the acoustic 'Shapeless and Gone', the latter resembling The Flaming Lips' 'Waiting for a Superman' or a wilted reinterpretation of The Jam's 'That's Entertainment'. 'The End of Silence' shares this love of The Flaming Lips with added electronica, but has a plastic soul and anything resembling a melody seems to be forgotten in the drench of echo.

'Picture' possibly sums up the frustrating nature of Strange Weekend, taking its lead from The Phoenix Foundation or Mercury Rev, possessing more drive and a sense of purpose than much of the album, but again it fails to build and limps to its ending rather than giving a statement of intent.

It's a pity that such a promising start has spluttered into mediocrity, with too much reliance on production and safety, where a few bold steps could have done wonders. There are some good moments here, but Strange Weekend is anything but strange and does far too little to distance itself from the middle of the road.

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