Porter Robinson’s career has been one full of success; but overwhelmingly so. Surfacing amongst other EDM Gods like Skrillex, he was labeled as a borderline-prodigy with his initial EP, Spitfire (2011). Still raw and underdeveloped, three years passed before he found his identity and his debut full-length album, Worlds (2014), was released. And naturally, it skyrocketed to the top spot of the dance/electronic Billboard charts, with critical praise following along.
If I stop time right there, everything seems perfect… But outside of a couple of 2015/2016 singles, Robinson halted music production entirely, citing self-doubt and writer’s block as the reasoning behind the extended hiatus—one that almost ended his career. Luckily, the struggle inevitably ended, or subsided, and Nurture was born, but the frustrating years Robinson “wasted” are still all present on this record, in one form or another.
Nurture is a record about patience and progression. Leveraging his own experiences into his music, Robinson pleads for his audience to enjoy life and stop worrying. Following the introductory jaunt, “Lifelike,” “Look at the Sky” takes a first-person look at this proclamation: “Look at the sky, I’m still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good, something good.” But by track three (“Get Your Wish”), Robinson already takes the offensive, telling you “Don’t say you lose just yet / Get up and move ahead / And not only for yourself.”
Aside from the inspirational language itself, though, the messaging truly works due to the album’s pacing. After the brief two tracks of engaging electro-pop, “Wind Tempos” gives us time to contemplate—in one of the most beautiful settings in music history. The jogging pianos, the lush sprinklers, and the swap to acoustic production create a calming journey for your own thought(s) to thrive in. Somehow it’s only three minutes, but it feels like thirty.
Sonically, the album takes a much livelier approach to electronica. Robinson’s debut record, Worlds, was an AI-filled, alien world—one that was gorgeous, but not familiar. Nurture consistently takes from the real world, not only splicing acoustic instrumentation with electric, but the aforementioned outside effects of sprinklers, nature (which cannot be a coincidence), and even candid recordings of motion and breath are used to force you into the moment.
Glitchy electronica and vivid, colorful guitars and pianos rarely meet, but like the picturesque single covers, Robinson’s creation(s) meld with perfect imagery of an imperfect dreamscape. Like a well-constructed artificial reality, everything feels serene until it doesn’t. The ambient “Wind Tempos” eventually ends with a shrill, electronic loop. And moments like the peppy, bit-like game music in “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” are quickly tailed by hard-hitting EDM bangers (“Mother”). Rather than a hard-to-navigate new world, as in Worlds, Nurture presents something well-known and comfortable to us, there’s just something not quite right.
Robinson’s days spent may have seemed wasteful at the time, but each of the lessons he picked up helped him on his way to his next project. Nurture is a step above everything he’s ever created both musically and thematically, and both enhance each other. Sure, Nurture makes you feel comfortable. It’s supportive. It’s bright. And it’s full of life. But it’s also not a perfect utopia. Most of the time, you’re strapped into the flower bed, but moments that rip you from your seat remind you that on this bright journey ahead, there are bumps, there are mistakes, there are errors. And if the lyrics, the song titles, and the visuals weren’t enough, the near-perfection of Robinson’s long-awaited sophomore album should be enough reasoning to give yourself a break.
PS: It could be the unbelievable relatability of this project, but “Blossom” is a tearjerker.
Favorite Song(s): “Look at the Sky,” “Get Your Wish,” “Wind Tempos,” “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do,” “Something Comforting,” “Blossom”
Least Favorite Song(s): “dullscythe”