Porter Robinson: Worlds, Album Review

In 2014 Porter Robinson released his first full length album Worlds via the Astralwerks label. Worlds is an indie dance and electronica record, which focuses more on melody and composition than being very well produced even though it still is. Prior to this albums release Robinson stated that he had grown tired of making ‘dance’ music, or rather music that is functional instead of enjoyable. Having previously released his first EP Spitfire on the Owsla label in 2011 he laid the foundations for the sound he would use in worlds in his songs Language and Easy, both of which achieved success n the mainstream as well, with Language reaching number 8 in the UK charts. Worlds’ main intention is to make the most beautiful music Robinson could make, does it hold up? lets see.

One thing to note is that despite this album being released over two years ago, it still holds up at number 27 on the itunes electronic charts while similar albums such as Madeon’s Adventure have slipped.

One thing this album achieves very well is having an overall theme throughout, and Robinson has definitely developed his own sound, that I do think separates him from other artists. Whether it be through his melodies, choice of vocalists or general midi sounds his music has a recognizable sound one that makes his music identifiable among the waves of similar music, his recently release single ‘She Heals Everything’ is a testament to this.

Now lets run through each track individually and see how they hold up.

 

Number 1) Divinity (Featuring Amy Millan). Divinity is the perfect opener to this album, it sets the tone perfectly, and while it’s by no means the best song on the album or even the best three, it is so good at setting the tone. Millan’s vocals work perfectly and Robinson uses them sparingly, which is a smart choice. A good progression and strong motifs start the song off well, and the culmination of them all at the end allows for an amazing opening. that leads perfectly into the next track…

Number 2) Sad Machine. Sad machine is the feature track of the album, and while I do not think it is the strongest overall, it has some interesting theming that I can see would endear it to other people. This is also the track Robinson states as his personal favourite. It definitely has the most creative idea on the album: a duet between a person and a Vocaloid, or artificial voice. Both of which impress on their own. I think the melody is very catchy and that the lyrics are good but I just think, Meh.

Number 3) Years of War ( Featuring Breanne Duren). I’m surprised that this song achieved as much success as it did. Apparently taking the longest to make, Years of War is nothing amazing, and out of all the songs i continue to forget this one is on there. I’m a big fan of Breanne Duren’s work with Owl City, Saltwater room is one of my favourite songs of theirs, but she doesn’t fit here. I think that other vocalists could have been a better fit. The melody is OK and I think its interesting that Robinson used the underrated sync lead. But the song is forgettable, its ok though.

Number 4) Flicker. This track is strange, I find it interesting that Robinson managed to make a hook out of Japanese speech but stranger that it somehow works. This track more than any other is the most indicative of the worlds style, and I think its one of the stronger tracks on the entire album.

Number 5) Fresh Static Snow. Fellow Feeling maybe the most melodically impressive track, Sad Machine may be the most unique, but Fresh Static Snow is my personal favourite. This is because I am a huge glitch fan. From the opening vocal riff to the harsh bass tones to the use of vocaloid, this track is the most similar to Robinson’s older music. If you speed it up to 128 beats per minute, instead of the regular 90, you get a track that would easily pass as an electro house song. this song is the best produced I think, and the live edit, which is arguably better, is a testament to that. In fact that’s true for almost all these songs; the live edit is arguably better especially Flicker, and Sheperdess.

Number 6) Polygon Dust (Featuring Lemaitre). Polygon dust and Fresh Static Snow, almost blend into one, whether thats good or bad, you tell me. I personally think there should have been a song in between. I think Lemaitre fit perfectly and I think the more interesting melodies and chords work, however I do think general midi is over used. I’m also biased as the song is in my least favourite key, that aside Lemaitre are stellar, definitely the strongest vocals on the album and the progression gears itself towards them. I do think the song needs an ending however, its a bit too repetitive for my tastes. Almost like a wannabe Fresh Static Snow.

Number 7) Hear the Bells. If you are a 90’s kid, you WILL  love this song, if you aren’t, I’m sorry. What I will say is the vocalists are very similar sounding to those used previously and it is very repetitive, but what is repeated is very catchy. Out of the songs this is the one where I feel  Robinson relied on vocals too much, but I can’t critique as then I’m just critiquing the genre, which I must admit I am not the biggest fan of myself. personal bias aside, the song has a strong motif and a solid progression. Not my favourite, but not the worst on the album.

Number 8) Natural Light. In my opinion, and the opinion of many others from what I can tell, this is the weakest track on the album. It somehow succeeds at being the shortest on the album but dragging the most. It is more IDM than the rest of the album, which is a very niche genre even within this album.

Number 9) Lionhearted (Featuring Urban Cone). Having not heard of Urban Cone before this album, I wasn’t shocked by the Swedish band. The lead has a unique tone but past that not a lot, having said that I haven’t listened to any of their other songs. The chorus is underwhelming, the video’s weird and the virtual riot remix is better, nuff said.

Number 10) Sea of Voices. Out of all the tracks on the album, this one achieved most of success, it didnt chart highest or anything, but it has been used extensively in film trailers and at conventions, as it perfectly conveys the atmospheric feel required in such situations. seemingly having no order its stunning to listen how this all comes together. The use of Breanne Duren here is better than in Years of War, mostly because its a stronger track altogether. And its all the little things that add to it: the wind chimes, the guitar and the poem sung by Breanne all add to the overall atmosphere.

Worlds had many remixes and mashups made over the past two years, but in my opinion the best is sea of voices mashed with Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the movie ‘The Great Dictator’, Moving stuff.

Number 11) Fellow Feeling. Quite frankly, this is the strongest track on the album when it comes to melody and creating the feel Robinson was aiming for. This is due in part to the ‘lyrics’ in the song, which mirrors his own feelings towards dance music and how it often takes functionality over melody and feeling that can be conveyed through music. The orchestral opening puts the soundtrack of many films to shame, the then contrast to the satire of harsh music is very jarring but intentionally so. The final section of this song combines those prior melodies with the electro beats Robinson was known for previously and it all creates such an overwhelming wave of sound.

Number 12) Goodbye to a World. This song has the best progression out of the entire album, eventually building up to one of the best climax’s to a song I have ever heard. seriously those stab chords get me every time. Robinson has stated previously that he is obsessed with the concept of the world ending, after watching the RPG Star Wars Galaxies be shut down when he was a teenager, and this song is an amazingly sad representation of those feelings, leaving a very sad ending to the CD version of the album.  I appreciate the experimentation with vocaloid  in Worlds, but I think its used best here, with the voice becoming less and less audible throughout. This song tells a story a subjective one but a story no less. One of the more creative tracks of the album

Number 13) Sheperdess. Now, I’m cheating here slightly. Sheperdess was released on the vinyl version of worlds but not the actual release. But It’s a good song so be quiet. This song was finished two years before worlds, but Robinson felt it conveyed the feelings of worlds so added it. And its very easy to see why, the breakdown of the song conveys such emotion through those high strings and arpeggiators, so in some ways its almost a sour ending when the big room kicks it at the end. Really just proving his point that dance music is functional, so I’m glad that the live edit leaves that out, instead transitioning into She heals Everything. I like the first drop, because it’s minimal but the second one is too much and doesn’t fit with the rest of the tracks beauty.

Worlds is a solid listen throughout, if you’re as big a fan of this style as I am, you’ll love it, and if you’re not its a good stepping stone into the wider world of electronic music. 9/10.

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