Porter Robinson has released the first teaser for his debut album, Worlds, due out later this year on Astralwerks. Long one of EDM’s Next Big Things, enjoying festival billings that belie his slim catalog, Robinson has spent much of his career promising to break with EDM convention, and with “Sea of Voices,” he delivers.
The song is the first new music from the 21-year-old producer since last year’s “Easy,” a collaboration with Mat Zo, and his first new solo material since 2012’s “Language,” a lighters-raised electro-house anthem that went to No. 1 on Beatport and iTunes’ dance chart, and No. 9 on the U.K. singles chart.
The Charlotte, NC, native has spent much of his time since then warning fans precisely not to expect another “Language.” That year, he told the Wall Street Journal, “The new frontier for me is to write music that is emotionally compelling.” It was just a year since he had released his debut EP on Skrillex’s OWSLA label, and he had already soured on the artistic potential of main-stage EDM. (“There’s only so much anthemic electro-pop house you can take,” he told the Journal.) Last November, when Robinson announced signing to Astralwerks, he told Billboard that his debut album would feature “a vintage sound. Something that was a little more lo-fi-inspired. It has a bunch of weird tempos that dance people aren’t really doing. There’s no DJ-friendly intro and outro. It’s meant to be listening music. It’s not a party record at all.”
“Sea of Voices,” although unabashedly hi-fi, backs up his claims. If last month’s cryptic, 10-hour-long announcement video for the album served as a conceptual reboot, “Sea of Voices” confirms that Porter Robinson 2.0 may share little in common with the buzz-saw melodies and jagged beats of his earlier work. Instead of Robinson’s former “complextro” mentor Skrillex, it’s Sigur Ros and M83 that loom large over the song’s angel choirs and dewy strings and arpeggiated pinwheels.
Beginning with just voice, organ, and wind chimes, it builds slowly, taking on meaty electric guitars, wordless vocals, and swelling strings that suggest he’s spent plenty of time listening to both Tim Hecker and Henryk Gorecki. At its climax, three minutes in, the rising sea briefly parts, and a lone voice comes sailing through like the S.S. Optimism herself — “We’ll see creation come undone” — and then it all comes crashing together again in a vast tsunami of synthesizers and echoing snares and unbounded yearning. How much more epic does it get? (None more epic.) “These bones that bound us will be gone,” sings the vocalist. For Porter Robinson, that sounds like a new rallying cry. Listen to “Sea of Voices” below.