Porter Robinson – Worlds: Review

There’s no-one quite like Porter Robinson in the world of dance music at the moment.  Rather than appeal to what is essentially the lowest common denominator, generic house that’s as soulless as it is appealing to the masses, Porter’s unique brand of electronic music tries to blend the atmospheric with the lively.  And, unsurprisingly given his track record, even at such a young age, he manages to pull it off flawlessly.

This is perhaps the most cohesive album I’ve ever listened to from a dance act.  It’s got a story to it, an atmosphere to it that is futuristic, beautiful and sort of eye-opening.  “Language”, a song I only discovered last year from his last release, managed to do both hard-hitting electronic alongside something beautiful.  When Porter Robinson poured his soul onto Twitter in February to explain his new direction it’s “Language” that he used to give people an idea of where his music was headed.  This album might be a little slower, in general, than the first but it certainly nails the beautiful part.

The opener, “Divinity”, works really well at setting the stage for the new musical landscape that Worlds seeks to build.  It may seem a little plain, but it builds nicely with softer, orchestral tones towards a thumping bassline.

Once the album opens up, you begin to see the range of influences that have come over Porter Robinson’s music that really sets it apart from his first album, Spitfire.  Japanese music comes into things, with “Flicker” and “Natural Light” both prominently featuring Japanese vocals.  The former starts off like a new Daft Punk song, with the sort of 70s guitar before the vocals are stuttered and a drop and some heavier bass tones to it.  The Daft Punk influence can be seen elsewhere on the album too, as “Fresh Static Snow” emerges from a dark, growling synth into something much lighter and more rhythmic.

Another influence that comes through quite strongly for me is that of old-fashioned games, with 8-bit tones heard throughout the album from the opener to “Polygon Dust”.  This gives a sort of futuristic feel to the music, which goes further when you hear the extensive use of vocaloid (synthesised voices) in different songs.  It’s not quite at a stage where the robot voice of AVANNA is indistinguishable from the great guest vocalists, such as Breanne Duren of Owl City, but it adds something interesting to the album without doubt.  There’s not many songs like “Sad Machine” where you hear a robot duet meaningfully with the artist of the song, is it?  Worlds is not an album that makes you feel ready for a night out, but it’s one to sit along with while working, or relaxing, and that’s great for a change.

The only song on the album that left me with a little malaise was “Natural Light”.  It keeps a slow beat throughout but never really deviates from being a down-tempo step song, with a few Japanese vocals added in for good measure.

But thankfully from there until the end of the album the pace skyrockets as Porter shows he’s not completely left his old style completely; unleashing some great drops to give a little love to those he was so scared of alienating.

“Lionhearted” is definitely the most poppy and club-friendly track on this album.  The way it plings and plongs at the start before hitting its stride makes it really stand out.  The chorus/drop is also very classic Porter Robinson, with a soft opening before getting going.  It’s never too overstated but a good song none the less.

I thought Clean Bandit’s album was a weird mashup of different genres, but “Fellow Feeling” takes things to another level.  It starts of by bringing in the violins, sounding very orchestral and rather melancholy.  But then the electronic nature comes in and synths begin to play.  Then things turn really weird.  Vocals come in, and the music kind of cuts in and out.  The drums get louder, then it all goes quiet and in comes growling dubstep before a more “traditional” EDM drop.  This song is the melting pot of Porter Robinson’s new style, and for such a disjointed track – almost bordering on not quite being a song at times – it actually works really well.

For me though, the stand-out track of the album is still the first single, “Sea of Voices”.  The song gently builds from the windchime-esque start, and the melody of the pipes get louder and louder before the beautiful vocals appear and everything comes crashing in.  Hearing this song for the first time is something you won’t forget as it’s so unexpected yet fitting all at the same time.  The long wait pays off remarkably well – a fitting metaphor for the album as a whole – even if it’s not what you anticipated.

The world is at Porter Robinson’s feet when he can produce two albums, Spitfire and Worlds, that are so different but both independently special in their own right.  Where he’ll go from here I don’t know, but no matter what style he turns his hand to I think he’ll make something worth listening to.

There aren’t many albums that are really genre-defining, but this one proves to all the doubters that electronic music can still be something a little bit different whilst being fun and happy.  Worlds is a fantastic album that I highly recommend listening to.

Listen to the album in full below via Spotify:

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