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Porter Robinson: Nurture

In recent years EDM has made a habit of reaching for the stars, evoking massive imagery of space odysseys and intergalactic beauty. Just take one look at the deep blue, upwards-looking covers of ODESZA’s A Moment Apart and Jon Hopkins’ Singularity, each of which painted stunning pictures of the staggering universe beyond our solar system. North Carolina DJ Porter Robinson’s 2014 debut album Worlds took a somewhat tame approach to this Daft Punk-inspired trend, showing off precocious production skills but leaving a bit to be desired with respect to establishing a unique sound. Seven years later, Robinson’s second album solves that problem by bucking the interplanetary trend. Nurture refuses to look anywhere but home for beauty, as demonstrated by the album’s green cover depicting Porter lying face down in a lush meadow. The record’s distinct personality along with its honesty and clear vision make it a model sophomore record, hindered only by a slightly repetitive and overlong track list.

The album opens with the gorgeous instrumental “Lifelike,” a piano and string ballad adorned with tweeting birds that serves well as what Robinson describes as a “window into the worldview of Nurture.” This world view is sunny and hopeful, as expanded upon in the ambitious “Wind Tempos.” Wandering but immersive, the six-minute track is grounded by piano tremolos and accented with string flourishes and angelic backing vocals recalling Sigur Rós. A similar tone is achieved at the other end of the record on “Blossom,” a sweet fingerpicked love song whose only hint of electronics is its tastefully pitch-shifted vocals. Springtime field recordings scattered throughout the track list sustain the pastoral soundscape of these quieter tracks, which give Nurture room to breathe between its synth-heavy pop anthems.

Such an inward-looking atmosphere is an appropriate setting for Nurture’s introspective themes. Following the monumental success of his debut album, Robinson suffered from years of writer’s block which he claims was cured by freeing himself of the pressure to recapture the success of Worlds. Nurture is thus a celebration of the simple ecstasy of music, trading the massive drops and scale of its predecessor for tight, joyful hooks.

The addictive synth-pop single “Get Your Wish” is a prime example, demonstrating a masterful balance of instrumental weight with bounding verses and intense choruses all underscored by a syncopated piano reminiscent of Bon Iver’s similarly reflective “33 ‘GOD’”. Porter challenges his assumption that fame and greatness are what bring happiness, with each chorus acting as a self-intervention in which he asks, “So tell me how it felt/ When you walked on water/ Did you get your wish?” The second verse offers resolution as Robinson realizes that “The work that stirred your soul/ You can make for someone else.” It’s an inspiringly mature renewal of purpose for a kid who found global fame at a young age, and it’s appropriately commemorated here and throughout this album of infectious synth-pop and EDM.

Most of “Nurture” lives in this space of self-discovery and renewed confidence. Phrases like “I can make something good” are paired with bubbly and blissful synth lines, sometimes recalling the Postal Service as on the playful “Do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do,” and other times evoking early Daft Punk as on the Discovery-esque “Musician.” Besides the subtler worldbuilding tracks towards the beginning and end of the record, these pop tunes do tend to run together as the nearly hour-long album progresses, but such overzealousness can be forgiven for Nurture’s consistent high quality. And it’s not like Porter didn’t make any effort to keep us on our toes. The glitchy mid-point interlude “Dullscythe” is a bold experiment that carefully extracts melody out of chaos, a truly thrilling and somewhat rare showcase of Robinson’s virtuoso production skills.

Nurture is honest, consistent and focused, an improvement on Worlds in almost every way. Like any great sophomore album, Nurture sees its creator develop a unique musical personality while holding onto the qualities that made them successful in the first place. With well-tempered hints of experimentation, Porter Robinson’s second album gives us every reason to expect bolder things from him in the future while tiding us over with a no-filler set of inspiring and glowing EDM anthems.

The record’s distinct personality along with its honesty and clear vision make it a model sophomore record, hindered only by a slightly repetitive and overlong track list.
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Grounded EDM
  • Porter Robinson: Worlds

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