by Chiara Jurczak
Self-taught DJ and musician Porter Robinson’s second album, Nurture, is a breath of fresh air and a great musical escape for worn-out college students to dive into this finals season (or as a great post-exam treat). Robinson, who rose to fame in 2016 with the release of his single, “Shelter,” admitted to struggling with bouts of depression from 2015 to 2017, and that these issues left him feeling unable to create music he felt truly proud of. However, Robinson manages to reflect these struggles in Nurture by creating a space where thoughts like those that plagued him are swept away by a musical atmosphere which can only be described as magical. Listeners can allow themselves to be carried away by the vivid sounds flowing through their earphones, blocking out all of the noise from their real lives for just a moment. From the very first track, “Lifelike,” Robinson plunges listeners into a trance with a psychedelic musical experience reminiscent of an anime or indie video game soundtrack, perfectly reflecting the title of the song. Overall, despite the “messiness” which some have criticized the album for, the general consensus seems to be that Robinson fully achieved what he set out to do; he created an album that makes listeners want to run and faceplant in a field of grass that runs off the edge of the world, much like the man on the album cover has. In order to create this “in between worlds” vibe, Robinson makes use of ethereal-sounding music, but also of some more sinister sounds, such as crackling static, first heard in the fourth track “Wind Tempos,” and later featured for much longer in “dullscythe.” The overall effect of peace is not brought down by these interruptions, however. Rather, the way in which the calmness of the music manages to overcome these brief breaks only reinforces Robinson’s message.
The strength in Robinson’s music, however, and the reason why Nurture comes across as a definite message of hope rather than simply a great piece of escapism, stems from a set of lyrics that seem to overwhelmingly encourage his audience to endure the trials of today in order to accept the glories of tomorrow. One of the standout songs on the album, “Look at the Sky,” exemplifies this perfectly through its chorus: “Look at the sky, I’m still here / I’ll be alive next year / I can make something good.” By funneling his own dark thoughts and experiences into his lyrics, it’s almost as if Robinson is walking right alongside his listeners and feeding thoughts of positive reinforcement into their ears. This, paired with the repetitiveness and loop-filled nature of the tracks, adds an almost therapeutic touch to the project. In a way, Robinson truly is nurturing his fans and making sure that they grow as he has managed to. All the while, he is using the thing he struggled with the most during his own battle with depression – his music. Overall, Nurture is an excellent representation of how music can become both an escape and a reminder of that which one is looking to escape, and demonstrates how artists can combine both aspects into a reason to keep moving forward, lyric by lyric and beat by beat.