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Porter Robinson’s brave new ‘Worlds’

Posted 11:05am on Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2017

While Nora en Pure is diverging from the EDM crowd with her soulful, jazzy style, Something Wonderful headliner Porter Robinson is doing something similar but in a different way.

After starting to gain popularity in 2011 with a series of dance singles — including the EDM hit “Language” — that showed off his interest in anime and video games, the young North Carolinian took much of the dance-music world by surprise in 2014 with the “Worlds” album. It was a lush, reflective, ambient/downtempo pop collection that was designed as much for the headphones as the club floor. Comparisons were made to Sigur Ros, M83 and Air.

Now, fans who show up for Robinson on Saturday, where he will be performing much of “Worlds,” will see him singing and playing instruments, not deejaying. What’s going on?

“I don’t ever want to rule out deejaying,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s a totally legitimate way to perform. ... I love deejaying but a better representation of who I am and what I do is the live show.”

Robinson, 24, says he took a risk with “Worlds” and the concerts that has paid off. “My expectation for ‘Worlds’ was that I was going to make a great departure from what I’d done in the past. I remember saying to my manager that I hope this music will reach new people. It ended up being the most popular thing I ever did. ... I expected at the time that it would cost me in popularity ... but it turned out to be really beloved.”

As applauded as the album was by the likes of Spin and Rolling Stone, fans can’t help but wonder what Robinson has been up to since “Worlds” came out three years ago. Robinson said in a tweet last year that he had been “stuck” creatively but that things were moving forward.

“I’ve been making music since I was 12 and I’ve always had ups and downs in terms of inspiration,” he said in the interview. “One of my biggest fears is to release something that is kind of mediocre or uninspired. It would have been very easy for me to rehash ‘Worlds’...but trying to do that was killing me so I wanted to sit and get through the process and wait until I could get to write new material that was really touching and exciting to me.”

Robinson is tight-lipped about what his new music is like or when it will be released (“I usually let those plans speak for themselves by surprising people”). But, whatever it turns out to be, Robinson says he’s not abandoning his EDM base.

“I still consider myself an electronic artist and I think I will for a long time,” he summed up.

PLAYLIST: To hear a curated Spotify playlist of Porter Robinson and a selection of chill, downtempo, deep house, and tropical house tracks, go here.

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