Mom + Pop Music
For the last six years, Porter Robinson has been known for his electrifying, fantastical music that jolts the senses and flings the listener into a whole new world, literally. His first album, Worlds rendered an environment dominated by rusty cyborgs singing, TV-static snow, and pixelated sounding bells.
Nurture planted something completely different.
It’s still pure Porter: the essence and soul of his music is the same, but where Worlds’ population rasps out dreams of escapism, the only voice telling the story in Nurture is Porter himself.
Nurture intertwines the natural and the artificial, growing a soundscape that is teeming with life. The percussion is crunchy and sort of hollow sounding, confined to short bursts of sound, while the orchestral synths are warm and glowing. It’s a great combination.
Take “Wind Tempos”, the fourth track on the album. It starts off with trembling piano notes with the sound of rustling grass and water droplets in the background, and soft electric violin floats over the whole thing. As the song builds, more electric elements are added: processed vocals, warm synths, gritty whispers that skirt past the ears, and static that keeps getting louder. Until finally, all the noise cuts out completely, leaving only an organic piano melody to ring out in the silence. Every note from the piano pushes air up against the mic, telling the listener just how close they are to the music. It’s personal.
Then Porter starts to sing.
His voice is highly modified throughout the album; but here is where it’s at the most processed. The sound is extremely fried, with some syllables clipping out completely, some replaying, and the edges of words fizzle out into pixels.
Together the distorted voice and the unfiltered piano duet, and in that moment it seems like the most natural thing in the world.
This is how the whole album feels — Porter’s freshness and new bright eyes are bleeding through his music but he is bleeding, singing about weariness and doubt and overcoming it all. The instruments he uses reflect those feelings: ambient sounds, heartfelt vocals, and clashing electronics. The lyrics, too, tie these themes all together.
“Get Your Wish”, track three on the album, is one of the songs whose lyrics exemplify that theme of self-doubt. Here, Porter talks to himself about his own self-worth, imposter syndrome and breakthrough, with these words:
When the glory tries to tempt you,
It may seem like what you need
But if glory makes you happy,
Why are you so broken up?
So tell me how it felt
When you walked on water
Did you get your wish?
Floating to the surface
Quicker than you sank
One day you choke, your urges overflow
And obsession wears you down
But don’t you waste the suffering you’ve faced
It will serve you in due time.
All in all, Nurture is a deeply personal experience. Everything on the album is so integrated and cohesive with the themes and narrative that Porter is trying to convey. As Porter writes,
I’m still here
I’ll be alive next year
[and] I can make something good
(“Look At The Sky” track 2)
The end result is a powerful message from him: That despite hardships, he’s found the strength to keep pushing on.