Porcelain Raft on drawing inspiration from L.A., cinema

If you’ve been writing about music for any length of time, your e-mail inbox is bombarded daily by somewhere in the ballpark of 100 to 150 press e-mails. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, but out of that I’ve discovered a ton of new music.

A few weeks back, I got an e-mail about L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist Porcelain Raft from Grandstand’s Katie Nelson. Though Mauro Remiddi has been recording under this moniker for since at least 2010, it was my first introduction. Within the first two songs of his latest record Microclimate, I was hooked. He has a show Wednesday, April 5 at the Resident in DTLA — a perfect venue to soak up his music in my opinion.

The soundscapes you find on Microclimate have so much depth to them. The somberness in the brief but impactful opening track “The Earth Before Us” sounds like it could be the opening of True Detectives. The opening synths in “Distant Shore” remind me a bit of Jenny Lewis’ “Head Underwater” — but this song builds upon those synths with so many layers. Remiddi is playing 99 percent of the instruments you hear on the record.

I spoke with Remiddi by phone last week and he gave me some insight into the recording process behind Microclimate.

“I used to record in my room,” Remiddi said. “So you build your own isolated world, but at some point you hit some limits there. Traveling made me want to not record in my room. I wanted to invent a new way of making music for myself so I started recording while traveling. So I’d just take notes. I had a small recorder and I would record a melody while I was walking for example — which I had never done before.”

Going to the studio was more like gathering the bits and pieces Remiddi laid down when he was traveling, to places like Barbados and Joshua Tree and Big Sur (a name of a song on the record). So the studio was more like an editing and going in-depth on the melodies and stuff. It wasn’t something Remiddi set out to do, but it just worked out that way.

“I tend not to plan,” Remiddi said of recording. “I found that every time you have a plan, you’re always disappointed because it becomes almost impossible to follow it if you just build these limits around yourself. I just like to improvise. I like to play with what I have around. For instance in my studio, a friend of mine gave me a slide guitar and that’s why I used it in the album. It wasn’t like, ‘oh let’s use a slide guitar, let’s buy one’ — it just happened that a friend of mine gave me a slide guitar. I never plan ahead. I really like to work with what I have at the moment.”

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Remiddi — who has also lived in Rome, London, and New York, has lived in Los Angeles the past two-plus years and indicated it’s had a major impact on him.

“Those are all big cities,” Remiddi said of his former stomping grounds. “I’m a city guy and have always lived in big cities. But if you wanted nature in those cities, it’s very confined. You have your park, you have your little trees in the street. You see nature as a confinement. It’s really specifically located.”

“So once you come here to Los Angeles, very often it’s the opposite. You see this pocket of civilization coming out from nature. If you exclude downtown — for example where I am now — Highland Park — you just see mountains of green and then you see these pocket of houses coming out. So you feel the nature is not tamed. Obviously is it is, but the feeling is it isn’t.”

In discussing it further, Remiddi would remark how in L.A. you can see coyotes in the street, which is something unfamiliar to him. He also pointed out how you’re two hours from being in Arrowhead or Joshua Tree, the kind of thing I mention to outsiders often. Coming to L.A. helped Remiddi immerse himself in nature more than living elsewhere ever had.

If you listen to Microclimate all the way through, it’s extremely cinematic. This all makes sense given Remiddi’s early roots composing for films in Italy.

“I come from the background of soundtracks and it’s the thing I feel close to the most,” Remiddi explained. “As a kid I used to listen to a lot of classical music. So that is my background. … My sensibility comes from — I’m more a visual guy than a sound guy. Even when I compose I think of images. I had a sensibility towards images but I didn’t have the right technique in my head to achieve anything I was thinking when painting and drawing. So that’s why I moved to sounds, because I felt it was more approachable than painting.”

Remiddi said he watches far more films than he does listen to music, even declaring it a dream of his to own a small cinema that runs older films on a 24-hour loop. Remiddi also said he’s currently working on an opera and more projects outside the scope of what he’s done with the Porcelain Raft project.

You can catch Porcelain Raft on Wednesday, April 5 at the Resident in DTLA. Tickets are priced at $12.00. Don’t miss out!

Top photo courtesy of Malia James / middle photo courtesy of Jennifer Medina