Throughout its many manifestations, synth-pop has always suffered from similar shortcomings. While readily apparent in the most recent generation of artists, the Achilles’ heel of almost every latest, greatest synth-pop act is their failure to make a human connection through creative songwriting. From techo’s explosion over the last 20 years, we know it’s relatively easy to make someone dance with a nice melodic synth riff, but bringing someone to tears or forcing them to ponder their existence proves to be a much more difficult task.
London-based singer Mauro Remiddi’s first full length as Porcelain Raft is a sincere attempt to bridge that emotional gap. Unlike the hollow, bare bones sound of bands like Passion Pit, the songwriting on his album Strange Weekend is fully fleshed out and quite moving. There’s an intimate personal appeal to the lyrics on the album, which after several listens, starts to feel like a troubled friend unloading their deepest secrets. Though many of the themes deal with abstract ideas surrounding emotions and relationships, songs like “Unless You Speak From Your Heart” are easy to relate to on a personal level, especially when driven by catchy melodies.
“Drifting In And Out” opens the album with a similarly upbeat arrangement. On the echo and effect-laden track, the vocals pitch-shift perfectly in time with the chorus, clearly driving home the concept to the listener. While the songwriting is near-perfect on the album, Remiddi’s warm vocals also remain a guiding light for each track, offering another selling point. “Drifting In And Out” closes with Remiddi’s high-pitched falsetto echoing over the framework of a classic guitar solo. “Shapeless & Gone” follows, taking on a psychedelic acoustic feel reminiscent of MGMT’s “Weekend Wars.” The acoustic guitar shows up again on the dreary “Is It Deep For You?”, masterfully connecting the vocals to the drum pattern and the dozens of effects lying in between.
One of the highlights of the album, “Is It Too Deep For You?” conveys all the impressive aspects of Strange Weekend in one heavy four-minute trip. The lyrics are powerful and personal, touching metaphorically on the difficulty in maintaining a relationship. Layered spaceship sound effects build off in the background, communicating an intense level of confusion, all the while a beautiful guitar melody stays strumming, grounding the heady effects with a level of sinewy romance.
Seeing Strange Weekend is largely an experimental electronic album, I initially found its release on the Secretly Canadian label, home to folk figureheads like Bon Iver, to be perplexing. After listening to it for the past several weeks though, the intricate and thorough composition of the album feels much more similar to the approach of a singer-songwriter, rather than that of a producer or DJ. If other synth-pop artists and producers are hoping for similar success in the future, they’re better off trying to craft unique, fully formed songs like the ones on Strange Weekend, instead of just making more beats.
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