Whenever an artist adopts a new alias, it is essential to set aside any previous notion of what to expect from their performance.
I first saw Porter Robinson at Terminal 5 in Manhattan, NY for his Worlds tour. The album was his first and stood as further evidence of his talent for ethereal melodies, with songs like "Language" and "Easy" already released a couple years prior. Known to be somewhat of a weeb, Robinson made his JPop influences apparent by coordinating the entire set to an animated film. The visuals provided a setting for the album and created a realm in which the audience could loose themselves to euphoria.
Flash forward to late 2017, after touring with his longtime friend Madeon for the Shelter Live Tour, Robinson was ready to disavow most of his past discography, stating in a tweet: "i’ve been making music for 12 years and i only wrote 11 songs, wow.
Virtual Self leaves behind any resemblance of his signature electro pop. The EP roots itself in being a nostalgic re-creation of his past, as a kid who augmented his reality by being immersed in MMORPGs and anime forums. Robinson took three years create this project, ensuring that every part of it fit with the concept. He held nothing back in his homage to early 2000s media; fans of his typical dreamy sonic image may get left behind by his pivot towards abrasive drum'n'bass characteristics, but that is the reason he created Virtual Self.
Not playing one song from his days as Porter Robinson, Virtual Self transformed Shrine Auditorium into a warehouse pounding with machine-gun stomps and hardcore vibes. The stage, a metal grid of flashing strobes, communicated what Robinson wanted to get across with the show: it is not about him, it is about the music. He stood at the grid's center, obscured by fog and exhaustive lighting effects.
Opening up with a remix of Deapmash's "Halcyon," Robinson gradually mixed in his Grammy nominated track "Ghost Voices," easing the crowd into a mania. Virtual Self had a control over the audience that is unparalleled. At times inserting mellow mechanical noise between transitions, the crowd did not waver in their erratic jumping when he cut back to bursts of high BPM tracks like "Thousand" by Moby, which reaches around 1015 BPM at its peak. The precision timing and color choice of the lighting drove each bass beat into your soul. On the screen, the faces of the project: Technic-Angel and Pathselector guided us through the set.
Never loosing touch with the aesthetic, text was displayed in Final Fantasy font to remind us that we were there to enjoy the music and that it was made for us. The text also introduced two unreleased tracks: a rework of "Ghost Voices" and an entirely new song "God Rays." Both of which played to the hardstyle cadences of the EP.
Having attended both nights of the show at Shirne Auditorium, it was easy to see the passion Robinson has for Virtual Self. Even though he played the same set both times, his raw love for the music, obvious from the way he jams out to each track, gave me the energy to go just as hard as I did when I first saw the show. Each time the set ended with his track "Eon Break" I knew it was time to go home, but all I wanted was to stay in the world he fabricated for us, filled with happy hardcore and lights that welcomed you into a new dimension.
— Livia Azevedo, DJ