Arriving on the EDM scene almost at the exact point it exploded in America, 22-year-old North Carolina producer Porter Robinson became something of a poster boy for the brash-is-best generation. However, having grown tired of gigantic bass drops and hedonistic beats, his debut album, Worlds, sees him bravely abandoning the sound that launched him to fame in favour of hopping across a whole host of sub-genres while simultaneously showcasing his passion for Japanese culture.
The rowdy fratboys Robinson previously used to whip up into a frenzy may therefore feel slightly bewildered by the likes of “Flicker,” which sounds like the theme tune to a children’s manga animation as recorded by Discovery-era Daft Punk, and “Sad Machine,” a melancholic blend of washed-out synths, oriental harps and chillwave beats which evokes the deceptively melancholic synth-pop of Passion Pit.
But as with his rise from his bedroom to the superclub, Porter Robinson’s deliberate attempt to distance himself from the party crowd couldn’t have been timed any better. Indeed, with even one of its leading exponents, regular motormouth Deadmau5, recently declaring that it’s only a matter of time before the EDM bubble bursts, the widescreen cinematic instrumental “Sea Of Voices,” the woozy chillwave of “Natural Light” and the space-age electro pop of “Hear The Bells” all indicate that Robinson has the ability to survive once it does.
Worlds does feature a couple of concessions to Robinson’s past, namely the swirling 8-bit electronica of closer “Goodbye To A World,” and the chaotic bleeps and lurching basslines of “Fellow Feeling,” both of which could have sat comfortably on the debut EP he released through Skrillex’s OWSLA label.
However, the album is undoubtedly stronger when Porter Robinson fully commits to his virtual fantasy world of anime, video games and imaginary sci-fi soundtracks. Worlds might not be an entirely seamless reinvention, but it’s an intriguing and admirable one which proves that dance music’s golden child is definitely growing up.