Porter Robinson music is a constant state of flux, a collision of future bass and indietronica that takes on a new shape with each new project. With hints of J-pop and classical music, the DJ-sophomore producer’s effort, Nurture, centres his vocals for the first time and attempts to break free from the EDM conventions he had previously adhered to. No riff or beat is ever left alone for too long before being dismantled and reassembled with a different cadence or rhythm, and just as a song’s hook approaches repetition, as on the single “Mirror,” it morphs into a broken, jagged version of itself.
Robinson Being Natural
This proclivity for mutation also applies to Porter Robinson exploration of new emotional territory. On “Look at the Sky,” he croons, “Something must have changed in me/I used to feel so light.” Subsequent tracks build on that sense of disillusionment, touching on Robinson’s recent creative block, and Nurture juxtaposes his earnest inner dialogues with exuberant beats that appear to nudge him away from self-doubt. Robinson’s ability to weave opposing sounds and derive energy from their combination animates the compositions. Piano and violins add texture and break up the tracks’ busy moving parts on the motivational “Get Your Wish” and “Sweet Time.”
Porter Robinson has stated that while recording Nurture, he adhered to a “no supersaws, no 808 subs, and no classic breakbeats rule.” Though he does not strictly adhere to those stylistic parameters throughout the album, the instrumental tracks avoid the constraints of dance music, particularly in the middle section. The hyperactive loops and double-time drum patterns on “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” evoke Dan Deacon’s mind-bending psychedelia, and the six-minute “Wind Tempos” features a gorgeous piano riff reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” The latter is an ambient study of interrupted frequencies, with ragged vocal fragments and synth interruptions peeping through the track’s ostensibly tranquil surface.
Porter Robinson earlier work
With the exception of some pulverising 808s on “Dullscythe” that harken back to his earlier work, Robinson mostly follows through on his promise to experiment with new sounds on Nurture, to mixed results. The cacophonous feedback on the cymbal-heavy “Mother” is grating, particularly for what appears to be a tender ode to parent-child relationships, and the chaotic, ’80s-inspired percussion on “Unfold” — evocative of clanging sheet metal — manages to feel diffuse. On the other hand, the tactile drum patterns on the kinetic “Mirror” and the ricocheting drum n’ bass on “Something Comforting” infuse potentially overwrought inspirational songs with a glitchy dynamism.
Nurture is at its best when Robinson’s dexterous instrumental tinkering is celebrated. The album is occasionally too precious for its own good, as on the mawkish classical-guitar ballad “Blossom,” but bolstered by Robinson’s infectious sense of discovery and ear for experimentation, it exudes an unmistakable spirit of optimism.
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