Ever since those heady days of 2012, when Atlanta native Porter Robinson first broke through with the hit single Language, he has always displayed a talent for shiny synths and heavy beats. The sound has developed, become in some ways more poppy and in other ways more indie, but these underlying facets remain. Processed vocals are a huge presence on Nurture, and the record is infused with a songwriting sensibility that’s cutesy but massively endearing.
Look At The Sky opens with warm, friendly piano before abruptly launching into sonic bombast. The melodies are effortless ear-candy, while the vocals exude a stoic optimism (“Look at the sky, I’m still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good, oh / something good”) which establishes the album’s overall mood nicely. Meanwhile, Musician embellishes its neon sheen with the break from Lyn Collins’ Think (About It) and a syncopated 808 beat, like Miami bass meets hyperpop, as the auto-tuned lyrics float dreamily above.
The sound design of Nurture comes with a plentiful bag of tricks to keep listeners on their toes: the fluttering synth lead of Get Your Wish, the crispy downsampled guitar on do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do. There are few songs which radically diverge from this wide-eyed synthetic vibe, although Blossom is a refreshing change of pace for its waltz-like feel and stripped back use of acoustic guitar with lo-fi ambience. Mother is the cream of the crop, crashing drums and power-chords underpinning a hook that is simultaneously anthemic refrain and reassuring comfort blanket.
Nurture is not a perfect record – it’s a bit too samey for an hour-long release – but it is informative to compare Robinson with his former contemporary Zedd. While the latter is lost in a sea of ghost-producers and celebrity features, the former has developed a niche that is fun, vivid and enthralling.