Indie artist plays with avant-garde sound

Mauro Remiddi, also known  as Porcelain Raft, is reinventing modern music.

This Italian indie musician makes his debut with his album Strange Weekend, an eclectic,  nouveau, shoegaze record.

Prior to this album, Mauro Remiddi explored a spectrum of opportunities available to musicians. He scored for Italian short films and performed in one-man bands. Remiddi’s last notable project was London-based indie psychedelic band Sunny Day Sets Fire.

New wave · Alternative artist Porcelain Raft debuts his first album, Strange Weekend, incorporating a subdued yet beautiful sound, reminiscent of hipster sweethearts Grizzly Bear and Sufjan Stevens. - Photo courtesy of Jennifer Medina

Though his debut album might be slightly comparable to his former band, Remiddi’s latest work is unique and admirable with its incredibly full sound. He uses synths, guitars and drums to great effect, creating some songs that recall the exuberance of synth-pop darlings Passion Pit and others that evoke the darker, earthier tones of Grizzly Bear.

Along with this full sound, Remiddi incorporates lo-fi, a musical genre popularized by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, which is characterized by the acceptance and encouragement of technical flaws, such as background noise, distortion and humming.

Instead of rejecting these flaws, Remiddi embraces them and weaves them into his musical style, delicately balancing the distortion and music. In addition to his experimental style, Remiddi’s husky voice and dreamy sound quality — combined with catchy hooks and intriguing lyrics — make the album an easy, enjoyable listen.

The album begins with the M83-esque, psychedelic track “Drifting In and Out.” The song is complex and skillfully layered with mellow beats, dark synths and Remiddi’s dynamic voice. The track is not the standout song of the record but is a good way to present Porcelain Raft’s aesthetic to its audience.

“Shapeless & Gone,” a pop-oriented, less electronically heavy tune, follows.  A languorous guitar and Remiddi’s soaring vocals take center stage under the consistent hum of a subtler synth. The song likens Remiddi to a young Thom Yorke and establishes the unique sound of Porcelain Raft — mellow, lo-fi pop characterized by an understated synth, nostalgic guitar and wide-ranging vocals.

The next two tracks, “Is It Too Deep for You?” and “Put Me to Sleep,” are less pop and more shoegaze. The beat and synths have a darkness and urgency that contrast with Remiddi’s dreamy, emotive vocals. Remiddi seems to speak, however, rather than sing against a very danceable beat on “Put Me to Sleep.”

In contrast, the surprisingly simple and sweet ballad “Backwords” follows suit, featuring Remiddi’s emotional and expressive vocals accompanied by a melancholy and imploring guitar. This is as stripped down as Remiddi gets on the album, and it is a welcome change that shows his wide range of musical sensibilities. Though this track is extremely different from the rest of the album, it is easily one of the most memorable.

Another standout on the record, one that is sure to be widely successful in the festival circuit, is the more upbeat, danceable anthem “Unless You Speak From Your Heart.”

Remiddi reminds the song’s subject that he doesn’t wanna listen / Unless you speak from your heart. The refrain from this chorus is infectious and devastatingly honest.

The album begins to wrap up with the slower and gloomier tracks, “The End of Silence” and “If You Have a Wish.” Remiddi’s vocals and guitar take the backseat to distortions, which make these songs easy to gloss over, especially when trailing behind the prior showstopper.

The final two tracks “Picture” and “The Way In” contain traditional, folk-infused vibes, drawing listeners in with their beautiful simplicity. The easy guitar and airy vocals recall the surf-pop vibe of Jason Schwartzmann’s California collective Coconut Records.

Specifically, “Picture” begins with the requisite lonely, folksy guitar but leads in to a more symphonic sound with elements of electronica as the song progresses. “The Way In,” on the other hand, features a gloomier, more distorted guitar with more baritone vocals. The lyrics on this song are significantly more introspective, as Remiddi ruminates on the power of dreams and the stark heartbreak of loneliness, serving as some of the best of the album and a perfect way to close.

Often, indie bands can sound like rehashes of each other; nevertheless, Remiddi’s Porcelain Raft has found a unique sound full of potential for more refined future projects.

Remiddi manages to mix a pop awareness with atmospheric musicality, which can only become more striking and sophisticated with time. Most importantly, each track on this album is worth listening the whole way through as each is unique in its own right, and that is a rarity these days.