Photos by: Rachel Frank
By: Ned Molder
Saturday July 11th brought a handful of talent to the Soda Bar in North Park. Local psych rockers Sundrop Electric and Swim Team took the floor-level stage as people trickled in, wondering why there weren’t more people here. Porcelain Raft is the moniker of Italian musician Mauro Remiddi, who has performed for several decades with multiple groups, as well as a stint as a hotel lobby pianist. Porcelain Raft’s second album Permanent Signal was released in August 2013 on Secretly Canadian, and he has toured off and on since its release.
Having not listened to Porc Raft before, I didn’t know what to expect, except that his music has been described as “Chill-Wave”, which sounds appropriately San Diegan. I was surprised when only Remiddi himself took the stage, among two stacks of analog electronics and an electric guitar. I can’t quite remember when he began playing. It was fairly quiet and most of the crowd was still talking near the bar. I got the sense that Porcelain Raft’s was a performance from which you got what you put in. But once I fully committed to listening, I found myself nearly hypnotized.
Remiddi’s absolute mastery of his instruments (which included a small keyboard, an analog sequencer of some sort, Akai MPC, and about 10 effects pedals on the floor) was spectacular. He easily and excitedly looped a beat while singing, and mixing his guitar, and also occasionally switching cable inputs/outputs on the mysterious blackbox sequencing machine.
Most of the first half of his set was somewhat poppier dance music. And he did it beautifully of course, but the real magic began when he told the 20 or so people enchanted by his set thus far that he wanted to play an acoustic song, and we had to be quiet. The front row here is great, he said, but maybe we can get the rest to be quiet. And then he played a brilliant, stunning, and definitely quiet guitar song. I know I didn’t blink for the entire length, and was only removed from rapture when a man next to me began shouting SHUT THE FUCK UP to the remaining Soda Bar patrons still conversing.
The climax of the night occurred in Porcelain’s last song. It was a heavy, shoe-gazey track that had the effect of a harmonic 18-wheeler revving its engine in your skull. Prior to the song, he asked for the lights to be turned off. This served a purpose beyond the creation of a dark, introspective mood. At the peak of the song, Remiddi pulled one end of a white cord from his black analog castle and plugged it into a seemingly inconsequential circuit board he held in his hand. Then he turned on a small spotlight in his other hand and used the light to control a sound filter via the baby circuit. He literally used light to control his music. The whole performance became a dance, Remiddi moving the board closer to the light to build up sound, then quickly moving away and releasing the sound or delay with an effect pedal, then manipulating the MPC to trigger another sequence. I couldn’t believe it. It was beyond surreal.
Porcelain Raft, everyone. He is a true musician, his exciting and powerful performance seems just a consequence of his musical and technical expertise. I only wish more people had been there so I could verify what I saw, I’m still not convinced it wasn’t a dream…