Permanent Signal: according to Wikipedia, “a condition in which a phone line is off-hook without connection for an extended period of time.”
It’s a term that Mauro Remiddi returned to repeatedly when reflecting on the time between last year’s release of Strange Weekend, the multi-instrumentalist’s debut full-length as Porcelain Raft, and this, its proper follow-up. “In a way, growing up in Italy, then living for 12 years in London, and now two and a half years in New York, made me realize that I have some dear friends I rarely see,” explains Remiddi. “I was touring almost non-stop for eight months and I started having these imaginary conversations in my head with people I wanted to communicate with, but for one reason or another it couldn’t happen. This is where the album title came from: the idea of a signal that says the line is off.”
Remiddi began working on Permanent Signal at the end of 2012, two months after returning from tour. It became a period of readjustment in which he was beginning to enjoy everyday comforts and reconnecting with friends, yet the thoughts of those unrealized conversations during his recent travels were still fresh in his mind. Inspired by this surreal moment of transition, where the reality of finally being home was still overshadowed by lingering feelings of detachment, he sold almost all of the instruments used for Strange Weekend in order to “start with a new color palette.”
This is immediately apparent in Permanent Signal’s opener, “Think Of The Ocean”. The dense, basement-recorded haze of his last full-length has been traded for a spacious melancholy, where cello, piano and drums gently spiral atop the faint pulsing tone, mirroring the album’s title. While layers of synths and electronics still play a role, the new record is far more organic than Porcelain Raft’s previous releases. According to Remiddi, this was an intentional move: “I wanted to record in the studio just to capture the guitars and drums properly, and to have some real input from musicians I respected and loved to hang with.” Remiddi enlisted support from Yuck’s Jonny Rogoff on drums, Antlers’ bassist Darby Cicci (who also contributed double vocals and trumpet, and engineered the sessions in his Brooklyn studio), and cellist Gaspar Claus (frequent collaborator with Sufjan Stevens and Bryce Dessner of The National).
Porcelain Raft’s once gauzy pop has now turned as vivid as a waking dream. During “Minor Pleasure,”Remiddi finds catharsis amidst the processed drone of organ and piano, echoing the gospel-dosed psychedelia of Spiritualized, and concedes in his otherworldly tenor that “there’s nothing hidden in what we see, sometimes you just have to let it in”. Meanwhile, the radiant lull of “Night Birds” reaches cosmic bliss, with a poignant sense of nostalgia brought about by the song’s crystalline guitars and synthesizers. There are tracks like “Cluster” and the haunting, Lennon-esque “I Lost Connection”, which deal directly with lives either on hold or in transition — all universal themes of the human condition that allow the listener to fill in their own personal experiences with a permanent signal.