Virtual Self – Review

After weeks of teasers and two singles, Porter Robinson (or should I say Virtual Self) has finally released the 5 track EP Virtual Self – an explosion of dance music modernity and history. After bursting onto the EDM scene in 2012 with his smash hit single Language, Robinson polished his sound to be more emotionally charged. The release of his first full-length LP Worlds – arguably one of the best albums from the dance genre – and follow up single Shelter (featuring Madeon) allowed him to break from the predictable, generic sphere of electronic dance music. It is no surprise then that Porter wanted to push the boundaries of his genre even further; giving himself a new stage name, Virtual Self, creating music that is as equally collective as it is rebellious.

The build-up to the release can only be described as a hype-fest for Porter Robinson fans. A twitter account with the name Virtual Self mysteriously only following and retweeting two other accounts: Pathselector and technic-Angel were created. In return, these accounts only follow each other and the Virtual Self. As well as this, the music video for EON BREAK – the first single – not only included images of both Pathselector and technic-Angel but pages of text (found in video’s description) that at first glance look like code. Fans on his subreddit had a field day searching through the material looking for a meaning to this imagery. Perhaps the most bizarre piece of marketing was a phone number, 7124324609, tweeted by Virtual Self that was deleted shortly after being posted. When the number is called a voice responds reading a block of text similar to that found in the EON BREAK music video. What all this means is anybody’s guess. It could be a deep evaluation on reality with the Virtual Self, Pathselector and technic-Angel playing characters within a larger story, or just an exceptionally well put together piece of marketing. In either case, it is clear from the outset this not just another Worlds.

Although much of the EP shares qualities with its predecessor – euphoric pads and lead synths for example – giving tracks their first essence of emotional substance. Other elements work in contrast to Worlds, the Japanese/Anime quotes seem more refined and are reserved for quieter moments of intimacy. The drop for EON BREAK, in particular, is more akin to Robinson’s older style, seen on Spitfire, portraying what can only be described as a system breakdown. With this style of drop comes an influence from Hardstyle heard not only in EON BREAK but also towards the tail end of Key. Potentially the most commercially accessible track on the EP, Key, takes influence from video game soundtracks, hinting at nostalgia similar to that created by retro wave – a genre brought into vogue recently by popularisation of the Stranger Things soundtrack. As well as this, the merging of genres in tracks such as Ghost Voices, that has more of deep house/tech house texture to it, assists in the exhibition of the EP’s aesthetic. This representation of thematic concept has been at the nucleus of Porter’s work since the beginning, but has never risen to the comprehension witnessed in Virtual Self.

Rumours have started circulating that part two might be released shortly – popular opinion being the day of Robinson’s first live appearance as Virtual Self (8/12/17). Only time will tell if these are true but in the meantime, the world has been treated to a conceptual, genre-bending rapture by one of dance music greatest pioneers.

Love & Peace

Charlie Vickers.

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