You know, it’s always kind of a bummer when someone releases a really promising debut only to follow it up with a not so promising sophomore release. It makes me sad, really. All that greatness you enjoyed about that first album just disappears in to the ether as a second album filled with schmaltz and wimpery(my word)fills your ears and makes you want to cleanse them with a bar of lye and a brillow pad. This is the case with Mauro Remiddi’s follow-up to his first album as Porcelain Raft. Strange Weekend was filled with all these great nuggets of analog synths and interesting beats given a hazy, drugged-out feel. I believe the kids called it “chillwave” way back in 2012. In 2013, I believe it’s called “meh”wave.
The first noticeable difference in Permanent Signal compared to Strange Weekend is that Remiddi’s voice is way up in the mix this time around. Not processed at all, really. It’s floating right there in your face daring you to compare him to Erasure’s Andy Bell. Or Air Supply’s Russell Hitchcock. I’m not saying Remiddi’s voice is bad. He sings in key. But the problem is that those wobbly effects added to the mood of that debut album. Without them it makes these songs feel way too serious. Way too high school talent show. “Think of the Ocean” starts out with some weird noises and wobbly square waves before a lilting (processed)cello comes in and Remiddi brings on a melancholy vocal delivery. It’s kind of a downer opening. Reminiscent of a Depeche Mode b-side. “Cluster” is decent enough, almost sounding like Explosions in the Sky at the very beginning with the e-bow’d guitar. The chorus brings to mind some of the more longing moments of Strange Weekend. There’s still that great production that Mauro Remiddi excelled at last time around, it’s just that these songs aren’t all that interesting. “Night Birds” for example is really just, well, it’s just not that good. This is schmaltzy soft rock with modern production squiggles to make it sound relevant. There’s even moments where Remiddi’s voice wavers uncomfortably, like someone who’s fighting the urge to get sick while singing at a karaoke bar. “I Lost Connection” takes the cake, though. It starts out sounding like Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and then proceeds to plod through nearly six minutes of piano bar balladry. “The Way Out” is interesting enough. It dirties up the ears a bit with a overblown drum beat and guitars hanging in the background. Remiddi’s voice is more an instrument instead of a focal point, which I think works in his favor.
I try to look for the good in everything. I really do. Unfortunately this album is just an overall letdown from the beginning. Some of that magic from 2012 is sprinkled here and there, but for the most part it can’t save a drab listening experience.
4.6 out of 10