Abandon ship! It seems like there’s a mass departure from what we call “EDM”. A lot of DJs are trying to flex their creative muscles in every which way possible – case in point, Avicii‘s album True that dabbled in bluegrass and swing textures. What happens when artists seemingly back off the sounds that made electronic music (particularly in the United States) so popular? You have very diverse interpretations on where it could go. This brings me to Porter Robinson‘s first album, Worlds.
Worlds was made with a child-like enthusiasm that is meant to be seen visually. I’m not talking in the sense that you cannot listen to it sonic-wise, but the key element is visualizing it. Remember those days when you were a kid and it was like nothing was impossible? In listening to this album, you have to let the soundscapes take you places and enact your imagination. I believe this is what Robinson was getting at with the abstract art and videos leading up to the release. This album is also full of influences. There are hints of M83, Daft Punk and hip-hop that, for the most part, don’t seem forced.
The first single, “Sea of Voices” caught everybody off guard when it was first released. There were no drops or big-room formulas. Electronic music has been known for its loud sound and “Voices” is calm and soothing – a welcome juxtaposition. In various interviews, Robinson has cited Kanye West as a musical influence and that influence is apparent on two particular tracks: “Divinity” and “Flicker”. “Divinity” has the hard 808 drum sound familiar in later Kanye West projects, but also combines the familiarity of Robinson’s earlier track “Language” with a video game-like glitch sound later in the track. The video game themes are very apparent through the whole album as this was also an inspiration for Robinson to make electronic music in the first place. This also fits within the child-like theme. Yes, the music is new, but it also gives you a retro feel flashing back to when you first picked up a Nintendo controller.
“Flicker”, which I consider to be the standout track of the album, combines a Japanese female robotic voice with music that could be a shoo-in for West’s Graduation album. Robinson makes great use of his influences here, as this track will truly take you on a journey. “Sad Machine” is Robinson’s duet with the same Japanese robotic voice which inhibits a slow build that is very Sigur Ros. I’m not sure how this is going to play out live, but it should be interesting. “Fellow Feeling” starts off with a very somber violin into a machine gun, metal-type breakdown that clashes into the track like a pair of cymbals. Again, it will be very interesting to see how a live crowd interprets this change in tempo.
Is Worlds groundbreaking? I cannot say because I have heard semblances of this material in other artists. Does it take those templates and make them better? I would not say better, but the reason why Worlds works is because Porter Robinson has his influences meet his vision in the middle for an enjoyable listening experience for the most part. In order to fully capture the essence of this album, go get yourself a ticket to the live show. You won’t regret the experience.