EDM Unbuttoned EP04: Porter Robinson
In this weekly series, EDM.com picks the best live acts working in electronic music today. These producers abstain from DJ sets and opt to use live and electronic instrumentation to give their performances a more grounded sound. From the saxophones heard by GRiZ and Big Gigantic to the rock-inspired sets from The Prodigy, this series explores all types of live electronic music. Read our pick for this week's best live act below:
Best Live Act of the Week: Porter Robinson
Photo Credit: Porter Robinson
The career of Porter Robinson can best be summed with one word: hectic. As a 12-year-old from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Robinson got his early inspiration from Dance Dance Revolution. One of the earliest cases of widespread acceptance of electronic music in America, DDR's lightning-fast soundtrack compelled Robinson to try his hand at producing his own music. After spending years crafting his sound, Robinson began to release tracks such as "Say My Name" and "I'm On Fire" on smaller labels. These early releases drew attention from Skrillex, who was scouting for a release to debut his record label OWSLA. Robinson gave him the Spitfire EP, and the rest is history.
Since releasing Spitfire, Porter Robinson's music has evolved in significant ways. His early tracks dominated the electro house and complextro genres as EDM grew bigger in America, but Robinson decided to change gears at the peak of his popularity. Early signs of this change could be seen in tracks like "Language" and the Mat Zo collaboration "Easy", which utilized uplifting synths and toned down the frantic energy of his earlier releases. In 2014, Robinson released the culmination of his new artistic direction: his debut album Worlds. Complete with catchy vocal anthems and softer tones, Worlds marked Robinson's foray into producing a memorable concept album, one that would influence his live show to adopt more live elements.
Worlds came with a full-fledged live show, another big change for the producer. Before the Worlds Tour, Robinson stuck to playing DJ sets. With this new tour, Robinson derived many aspects from his peers' live shows to encompass the vision of his album. To prepare for the tour, Robinson spent months preparing new versions of Worlds' songs, which were edited and constructed more specifically to suit the new live show. Using multitracks, which isolated different components of the original tracks, Robinson was able to turn more electronic records into songs that could be played on live instruments.
For his live show, Robinson brings a minimal setup compared to some live acts, but its simplicity marks one of its greatest successes. Robinson uses a drumpad, sequencers, a laptop, and mixing equipment to edit and manipulate samples from his songs in real time. For every kick, Robinson grabs a drumstick and slams his drumpad with noticeable aplomb. For every synth, Robinson queues up samples to play the song traditionally, only to switch it up as the crowd feels comfortable singing along. Robinson also brings back tracks from Spitfire, reimagining them with the Worlds aesthetics. Armed with a microphone, Robinson also sings along to a number of tracks, including the lead single "Sad Machine."
While the Worlds Tour ended, Robinson continues to bring the live show to a number of venues. He will play such festivals as Buku, Coachella, and Mysteryland in 2015, and he has hinted at the possibility of new music to come in the future. The producer will also play DJ sets on the side, which will reintroduce fans to the high-energy mixing of his older days. Robinson seems intent on maintaining a healthy balance between touring with an extensive live show and pleasing crowds with his DJ sets, and we can only guess what the future holds for a Worlds Tour follow-up.
Cover Photo Credit: Dancing Astronaut