Photo Credit: Natalia Guarin.
In these fast-paced times, with attention spans down to milliseconds, it often seems like the Twittersphere positively demands an avalanche of the new, the exciting, and the fresh, especially when it comes to music. It would therefore seem counter-intuitive, and downright silly, to swim against this flow and do things the old fashioned way. However, whether by accident or design Italian Mauro Remiddi, aka Porcelain Raft, has chosen precisely this modus operandi. After generating significant buzz when ‘Tip of Your Tongue’ dropped last year, he’s been busy doing, well, we’re not really sure. There have been a few EP’s released on Bandcamp and the odd sporadic live appearance, but that’s about all. Not exactly striking while the iron is hot.
Perhaps his recent signing to Secret Canadian will speed things up. Having posted how his debut is inching closer to completion, he’s also decided to hit the road. Sort of. If you can call three dates a ‘tour’. But semantics aside, he’s landed in Barcelona for his first ever gig in Spain, for the EASTPAK This Is Underground mini-festival, and it proves to be every bit worth the wait. Tonight’s entrée is a storming set from rising stars Stand Up Against Heart Crime, fresh from a prestigious slot supporting alt-rockers Crocodiles. Having already been featured in these very pages as ones to watch, its clear from the fuzzy, feedback infused intro to ‘Coffee & Cigarettes’ that these guys mean business and are out to impress. Self-styled as ‘kraut-wave’, they prove there’s still plenty of mileage in Cult-esque, 80’s style synth-pop, particularly ‘A Hundred Lovers’ and ‘Colours I Dislike’. Suffice to say, when people start dancing and singing along to a support band, you know they’re something special.
They are also the perfect counterpoint to the main dish of the evening, the aforementioned Mr. Remiddi. One of the beauties of chillwave, the warmth and complex layering which evoke a sun-bleached sense of nostalgia, is also one of the major hurdles to reproducing it live. Whilst both Toro Y Moi and Washed Out have ended up with bands and real instruments, Remiddi ploughs a lonely furrow, sitting amidst a vast array of wires and black boxes (plus one guitar). He’s said he prefers playing solo as it gives him the freedom to change things at any given moment, mid-song, or to improvise, and tonight we see why. His live performance is quite simply spectacular. How one man can create such atmosphere via a sampler, guitar, a series of loop pedals, and his voice is beyond me, but he is quite simply mesmerising. The swirling, distant-sounding guitar builds and builds in almost every song until it envelops you completely, almost like a trance. From the dreamy gorgeousness of ‘Amateur’s Feeling’ to the sunshine pop of ‘Drangonfly’, everything is perfectly pitched and beautifully constructed.
Even his vocals, which on record never really grab you, are impeccable; he skips octaves with staggering ease and never falters on a single note, using it almost like an extra instrument, as on a hauntingly beautiful ‘Despite Everything’. Stripped bare to just synth and vocal, it’s both ethereal and emotional, and showcases his skills as a composer. By the rousing finale of ‘Gone Blind’ and ‘Tip Of Your Tongue’, it’s clear we’re witnessing an artist destined for much greater exposure and recognition. If arduous rehearsals are the reason we’ve seen so little of him, it’s certainly been worth the wait, and as far as solo performing goes, he’s raised the bar to a new level. Given that this type of synth and sample-heavy music seems here to stay, it can only be a good thing that someone new has arrived to push the boundaries just as the other, more ‘established’ performers were settling into a groove. Better late than never I guess.