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Porter Robinson Invents Shoegaze-EDM on Dazzling ‘Worlds’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: August 12, 2014
Label: astralwerks

Could there possibly be such a thing as post-EDM? It appears so: The moneymaking genre’s erstwhile rookie-of-the-year, Porter Robinson — the one-time Skrillex protégé, a 22-year-old whose 2011 Spitfire EP was prototypical bro-step — has finally released his debut album, and it sounds nothing like anything he or his peers on the EDM circuit (though not outside it) have done before. Swollen and lurching, kaleidoscopic and surreal, it has more in common with the soundtrack to Monument Valley than it does the greasy throb coursing from the speakers at Electric Daisy Carnival.

Is this some great schism? Doubtful. While this is a songwriting departure, it’s not so much a sonic one — the bass is still concussive, the saw-tooth synths still assaultive — plus Robinson’s still cashing checks from the Vegas mega-clubs. But is this some great record? Quite possibly. It depends on how much you’re prepared to hold it against Robinson that in abandoning the standard four-four club kicks and spastic drops of his former cohort, he’s rather unapologetically nicked the soaring sonic vistas and lysergic textures of M83, Washed Out, Neon Indian, Tycho, even French chill-meisters Air. “Flicker” has the head-nodding thump and angular melodies of Boards of Canada, and “Sea of Voices” reaches to the heavens a la Sigur Ros, building and building and building and building. If you’re the kind of listener who cries foul every time an artist swaps source material, Worlds might not be for you.

But if you can cut the guy a little creative slack, then Worlds is pretty freakin’ awesome. It’s huge and ambitious and cohesive and comes with its own light show (i.e. Robinson’s impending tour in support of it). The world that Worlds conjures is fantastical and defiantly cheery, as in the choir of voices in the surging “Hear the Bells”: “Can’t you hear the bells sing in Cologne? / You won’t hear it in the radio.” It’s the zealous static of “Divinity” and the exuberant pop of “Lionhearted.” By the time the album arrives at the aforementioned “Sea of Voices,” Robinson’s really earned that huge build. By the time he gets to the next song, “Fellow Feeling,” which features majestic violins that eventually get into a dogfight with crisscrossing bass blasts, it’s pretty hard to deny this kid has done something amazing, no matter what you call it.