Ainhoa gets emotional about Porter Robinson
A brief disclaimer before we start: I’m not entirely sure I can be completely objective when it comes to synth-pop DJ Porter Robinson. I grew up with his music, his 2014 album Worlds becoming the soundtrack to my early teenage years. I have listened to his music on repeat, imagined full-length music videos for my favourite tracks and, yes, even drawn fan art based on his lyrics (no, you can’t see it).
But after 2014, he just disappeared.
Well, that’s not exactly true. After Worlds came out, Porter did eventually release a couple of new tracks. Most notably, Shelter, his collaboration with producer/songwriter Madeon, took the online anime community by storm in 2016. A fan of anime himself, Robinson worked closely with Japanese studio A1 Pictures to produce a beautifully animated music video to accompany the song’s release, complete with an engaging narrative about family and - in true Porter fashion - artificial intelligence.
Point being: aside from a few cool projects and a notable single, Porter Robinson has not released a proper album for six years. The wait, however, is almost over. And ‘Something Comforting’ is here to let us know. The second single from Porter’s upcoming Nurture, you would barely be able to guess ‘Something Comforting’ is an EDM track from its opening. A few soft guitar strings and the rustling of leaves in the wind give way to one of the most surprising aspects of this single: Porter’s real, unaltered voice. This fantastic change of pace for the artist allows the listener to feel much more personally connected to Robinson than ever before, and I am beyond excited to hear more of it upon the release of the album. Alternating with a more robotic, pitch-corrected voice throughout the song, Robinson’s vocals shine in this track. Gentle and heart-felt, it is hard not to get chills when you get to hear the two voices in tandem at the end of the track, cutting each other off yet perfectly synchronised and seeming to signal the merging of Robinson’s sci-fi sensibilities to the figure of the artist himself.
In contrast to this huge step forwards in terms of vocals, the synths used throughout this track are much more classic Porter. They have the same explosive, ethereal feel as those in ‘Hear the Bells’ and ‘Lionhearted’ from Worlds. While nothing especially new, the build-up from the initial guitar strings to the more synth-heavy parts of the song is full of vitality, and its touching lyrics - related to Robinson’s struggles with fame, creative block, and depression - are ultimately what elevate this song (and Porter) to new heights.
However, what I find truly remarkable about ‘Something Comforting’ is how it manages to live up to its title. It owes a large part of that to its wonderful mix of danceable electronica and much softer sections; not only does this song’s progression keep the track fresh, but it matches its bittersweet tone. In a way, it reminds me of a supportive friend who tries to cheer you up while also respecting your sadness and not trying to forcibly change your mood. Further, the coupling of old synths with new vocals creates a beautiful, deeply nostalgic sound that transports you to the comparative innocence of Worlds (if you are a Porter fan) and, otherwise, to the childlike energy and optimism of late 2000s synth-pop hits like ‘Everytime We Touch’.
But now more than ever, that nostalgia can hurt. Amidst political turmoil, a changing climate and now the Covid-19 health crisis, it can feel like nothing will ever be simple again. And this track knows it. ‘Something Comforting’ does not only feel the pain of a bygone past with you, but serves as a reminder that things will get better. Maybe the reason why I like this single so much is this video Robinson posted on Twitter. There, he delves deeper into the composition of ‘Something Comforting’ and the themes evoked by the song’s lyrics. As it turns out, the short hook that begins at minute 1:06 played a substantial role in his recovery from a long creative low-point and depressive episode in 2015 and 2016. “I would just listen to it obsessively because I was like ‘This is good enough. This is my taste. This is my shit. I like this,’” Robinson explains in the video. While he didn’t finish the song until 2020, he did ultimately keep elements that he came up with in 2015 (like the hook) while also updating it with everything he had learned since, explaining the song’s blend of old and new.
When I hear ‘Something Comforting’, then, I hear maturity. I hear growth. I hear resilience. Even if we do miss the simpler Porter of the past, the innocence with which we once listened to Worlds, this song reminds us that the complexity of the future is real, but also surmountable. Intriguing. And, if we’re lucky, even better. And that is something comforting.
- good -
PS: Porter Robinson’s website is very pretty and you should all check it out. It also allows you to connect with someone from a random place in the world and explore/draw together! Perfect for social distancing times.
Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea (pronounced "I-know-ah") is a culturally confused third-year English student from the Basque Country, Spain. She is passionate about film, music and politics, and she should probably know more than she does about all three.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.
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