Porter Robinson

Worlds

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Porter Robinson was a teenage Beatport chart-topper -- one of the youngest and fastest-rising EDM producers. In 2012, after a few singles, he issued "Language," his first song to dent Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart in the U.S. Just after his 20th birthday, it went into the Top Ten of the U.K. pop chart. The North Carolina native made a greater impact in his country when he teamed with Mat Zo for "Easy," one of 2013's most memorable commercial dance singles. Meanwhile, Robinson -- worn down by whirlwind success and EDM's strictures -- was edging toward a retreat from his genre and even expressed opposition to it. While the producer still wanted to appeal to a large audience, he sought to make his music more substantive, with a purpose greater than moving bodies. Worlds, his first proper studio album, was preceded by the release of four of its songs as singles. "Sea of Voices" was seemingly chosen first for being the most radical departure from Robinson's previous output. For over three minutes, it's nothing but softly swelling strings, wind chimes, and Breanne Düren's distantly cooing voice, and then a trudging beat enters and disappears in time for Düren to sing, lullaby-like, something vague about the world falling apart. Although there are other extended stretches of crude ambient and animated theatrics, Robinson often finds an appealing midpoint between his past, more direct approach and his desire to be more musical and emotive. Much of the material has a youthful, wide-scoped touch that draws from Robinson's love for M83 and aspects of Discovery-era Daft Punk, as well as video games. "Sad Machine," on which Robinson duets with a voice derived from Yamaha's Vocaloid voice synthesizer, has some naive synth pop charm. "Lionhearted" (featuring Urban Cone), "Flicker," and "Years of War" (with Düren and Sean Caskey) likewise have sections muscular and bold enough to move large crowds. Through several clumsier moments, it's evident Robinson's still getting the hang of making music that translates outside clubs and festivals. Going by what he has accomplished and what he aimed to achieve here, his development should be fascinating.

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