Four years since his last full-length album, L.A.-based songwriter Mauro Remiddi — better known as Porcelain Raft — has evidently had time to branch out sonically on his new album Microclimate. The wide-ranging record stretches from hints of anthemic pop right through to orchestral music, but as a whole, it's something of a mixed bag.
Microclimate starts out in familiar territory with "The Earth Before Us" and "Distant Shore," the airy, ambient and ghostly electronic sounds ripped from the dream-pop playbook but given an edge by Remiddi's distinct voice. Then, the experimentation starts: "Big Sur" brings in guitars that straddle a strange line between folk and surf, but the attempt to inject a sense of earthiness comes off as cheesy.
"Rolling Over" and "Bring Me to the River" are far more successful in adding new instruments to Remiddi's palette — minimalistic piano in the former adds a neat sense of urgency, while the latter's string section, accompanied by beats, feels like a true stylistic innovation — but elsewhere, Remiddi seems to have issues with positivity; the tracks in major keys here fall flat. "The Poets Were Right," an out-of-place slow jam, is one example, made worse by its jarring transition from previous track "Accelerating Curse," a dark slice of neatly controlled chaos.
Microclimate evokes feelings of displacement that Remiddi has hinted at before; musically, there's a sense of geographic movement here, as he lyrically touches on natural and urban landscapes. Fittingly, given Remiddi's diverse international experiences (including but not limited to playing in North Korea) it's a traveller's record, but not one for the wide-eyed, "wanderlusting" tourist; rather, it's one for the detached and disoriented, Bill-Murray-in-Lost-in-Translation voyager. It hits this note strikingly, but it's a shame about the sonic mishmash. (Volcanic Field)