Review: Shelter (Porter Robinson)

Hello, a.nihilist here. My first post on this blog, so I’ll give a quick intro about myself and what I’m here to do.

In terms of background, I’m an audio guy, studying AV Systems Design (though my diploma’s officially catering more towards electrical engineering). I’m also a hardware tinkerer (hence the diploma), and I mess a lot with portable audio gear. Being a closet otaku on top of my audiophile hobby only served to land me this position here in the Cosmic Potato Library.

But enough about me, and on about the review of Shelter. Aru-kun reviewed the animation last week, which was the main thing about us reviewing it, cos Nano-Chan found it justifiably doujin, and since there was an ex-EDM fanatic in the group, I ended up reviewing the music while they were at things.

So… What do I think of the music?


Surprisingly, despite being something of a Porter Robinson fanboy, I had some reservations about the entire production, musically. Yes, the short film was excellent, but it felt like more time was spent on creating the MV, and the emphasis on the music’s production was neglected as a result. It does feel as if the music was made to accompany the film, rather than both being of equal quality.

In fact, in order to give an unbiased review of the track as it is, without my impressions of the film coming into play, I had to abstain from Shelter as a whole for three days, distracting my brain from the hype train it was on with other pieces of music while it came down from its high.

Of course, while you can sorta get a summary of this entire review in the two paragraphs above, not all is lost, as you’d find out soon…



Yes, like I mentioned, the music doesn’t entirely seem to be too special in its own right.

Let me explain…

The primary issue I have with it is that it sounds way too Madeon in how it’s relatively repetitive and quite rather unsophisticated. Don’t get me wrong, I love Madeon’s stuff, and he’s one of those few EDM artists I still actively follow after having stopped fanboying over EDM about 2 years back (I proceeded to go hunting for the Vocaloid tracks of my youth, and eventually into all things anime).

The issue stems from the fact that the MV was strictly Porter’s creation, which resulted in the mindset that the music too was his, yet, as I see it, it has way too many elements of Madeon in it to be considered a Porter original. When you have a very emotionally expressive MV, coupled with Worlds’ amazing story-telling, you’d expect Shelter to be of a certain level of quality, musically, but it holds no candle to whatever’s come before.

In most of Worlds’ tracks, not only was there little repetition in all the tracks you got, there was also the introduction of contrasting, or subtly outstanding, instruments/sound effects to add to the complexity of the tracks, which can sound rather plain to some (though it is very much to the contrary). Shelter, unfortunately, lacks this, sounding plainly repetitive with what little “wow” factor it has being the spliced vocals, which probably is the only thing that is definitely original of Porter

The upbeat tempo, combination of a two-beat mid-bass and hi-hats in such a manner very strongly reminds of Madeon’s style of music, something I can’t imagine Porter ever producing. Another thing was that the music of Worlds’ had this quality where you could “feel” the music itself telling a story, or setting the scene for one which your brain could proceed to wildly imagine, but this isn’t the case for Shelter.

There is a noticeable lack of mellow laidback-ness that I’ve come to identify with Porter’s music, which further causes this dissonance between the emotionality of the MV, and the activity of the music. I won’t say I dislike it, because I found I could listen to this in just about any situation. It’s more of a personal gripe over how it doesn’t feel “right’ coming from a guy who’s something of a purist/perfectionist.

The one single saving grace though, were the lyrics, which I thoroughly enjoyed picking apart, because they definitively felt “Porter”…



Lyrically, I feel that there isn’t too much that’s gone wrong, fitting perfectly into the story Porter’s trying to convey even if one were to discount the impression the MV left on all of its viewer’s minds. In fact, it gives further insight into where the music stands in comparison to the story the film tells.

If one were to read the lyrics, and break things down a little, Shelter’s music is, chronologically, placed right after the events of the MV, rather than being part of it or telling the same story you see.

I do have to say that there are quite a few misleading, or indecipherable elements to the lyrics that resulted in quite a bit of confusion, but I’ll talk about it as you read the review… And before I forget, this open-ended element to the lyrics also allows Shelter to be bridged with the events happening in Worlds, but first, let’s just talk about the lyrics…

Here, have a read. I took the liberty of grabbing them off the Net someplace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Verse 1:
– I could never find the right way to tell you
– Have you noticed I’ve been gone?
– ‘cause I left behind the home that you made me
– But I’ll carry it along

– And it’s a long way forward, so trust in me
– I’ll give them shelter like you’ve done for me
– And I know, I’m not alone, you’ll be watching over us
– Until you’re gone

Verse 2:
– When I am older, I’ll be silent beside you
– I know words won’t be enough
– And they won’t need to know the names on our faces
– But they will carry on for us

– And it’s a long way forward, so trust in me
– I’ll give them shelter like you’ve done for me
– And I know, I’m not alone, you’ll be watching over us
– Until you’re gone

– Oh it’s a long way forward, trust in me
– I’ll give them shelter, like you’ve done for me
– And I know, I’m not alone, you’ll be watching over us
– Until…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Verse 1:

“I could never find the right way to tell you; Have you noticed I’ve been gone?”

Taking things literally, with the assumption that one were to link the music directly to the events occurring in the MV, one cannot be faulted for assuming that the song was sung from the point of view of Rin’s father.

After all, Rin’s father’s message was portrayed as being time-delayed such that it could only be read by Rin years after she matures into an adult. (I’ll just call him Otou-san, because it’s a hassle to type his position as Rin’s Father all the time).

In fact, the first two sentences were the primary reason why I initially thought the entire song was related to the message Rin read towards the ending of the track – I even wrote a whole essay on the thing – before I realized that it didn’t entirely match up with Rin’s proclamations towards the end of the track/MV (the extended version of Shelter contains Rin’s vocals towards the end).

The next two sentences clear things up though…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“‘cause I left behind the home that you made me; But I’ll carry it along”

This would place the music of Shelter after the events occurring in the MV, if there were a timeline, after Rin gets liberated from the capsule she was stuck in. The first sentence is as literal as it gets, while the second refers to the metaphorical sense of protection Otou-san offered to Rin while she was younger.


Verse 2:

Let’s skip the chorus for now, along with the outro, which is just about the same in terms of content…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“When I am older, I’ll be silent beside you; I know words won’t be enough“

Now here’s where things start getting interesting, because way more can be interpreted from these lyrics, due to how vague they are.

If one were to consider these lyrics from the point of view of Rin, the only thing I could personally think of would be that she sings them in relation to her eventual death after she grows old and passes on. To a certain extent, I can personally relate to such a situation, which makes this interpretation much less incredulous.

However, this also raises the possibility that the lyrics aren’t entirely directed at Otou-san, assuming she were singing to him in reminiscence, but instead to some significant partner she may have found after her liberation.

There’s one other interpretation, which I’ll talk about later…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“And they won’t need to know the names on our faces; But they will carry on for us“

Another vague line, though it obviously implies that Rin, if the song was written by her in the universe of Porter Robinson, has either found people to carry her legacy on, or has got descendants to do the same, inferring from the “they”.

However, the first half of this line might imply that she herself hasn’t full confidence in finding said people. Again, taken alone in direct context of only the MV, the lyrics make little sense, but there’s this other theory I’ve got that’ll be elaborated upon after we finish talking about the chorus…



“And it’s a long way forward, so trust in me; I’ll give them shelter like you’ve done for me“

Rather straightforward here… Again, the “them” most probably refers to potential descendants of hers or people who would carry her legacy on.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“And I know, I’m not alone, you’ll be watching over us; Until you’re gone”

This is a little vague, again allowing multiple interpretations.

From Otou-san’s point of view, I’m assuming he’s saying this to the young Rin recently sent off the planet inside her capsule right before the planetoid smashes into Earth (or whatever planet Porter intended the events to have taken place).

From Rin’s point of view, it could either be referring to some sort of letter stream from the past like the one she read towards the end of the MV that’ll one day eventually end (you can infer that more is to come from Porter following Rin’s storyline), or it’s got something to do with her boy/girlfriend and whatever (s)he promised her before disappearing from her life.


The Alternate Theory…

NOTE: I realized, a week before this review was to be published, that GoBoiano shared a fan-theory by another someone whose idea was somewhat similar to what you’re about the read below. However, because there were some slight variations between his idea and mine, we thought we’d just post this anyway.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And now for the omake. This is all my personal theory, so do take it with a pinch of salt.

One thing that left a deep impression in me when I first heard Worlds (Porter’s album, if you’ve forgotten) was that it actually had a rather deep and insightful story behind every track, and there was a progression from the first track to the last in terms of what the entire album was trying to suggest or convey.

The primary thing that summed the entire album up, the key song that set the mood, was Sad Machine, which talked about the “protagonist”, basically implied to be the listener, finding and waking up a feminine being (suggested to be an android, considering the title of the track). The rest of the album from then on basically talks about a post-apocalyptic world of sorts and the travels of the protagonist and his ragtag band of chums doing things and even potentially creating some form of self-governing society (maybe I’ll talk about this sometime in the future with another review, if Nano-chan’s okay, since it’s not entirely doujin-related).

If you’ve heard Worlds, or gotten a decent idea of what I’m trying to say, you might start getting the hint I’m driving across…

Shelter could be interpreted to come *after* the events occurring in Worlds, where the android revived might’ve been Rin, or a similar, encapsulated character (considering how Rin is, to an extent, a cyborg).

The “home” Shelter’s lyricist is referring to would be the capsule it was in prior to being freed from it;
The recipient of Shelter’s lyrics would refer to the person whom freed her from the capsule;
The shelter the lyricist refers to that she wishes to provide to others could be the same fundamental idea for revolution suggested in Worlds’ Lionhearted;
“When I am older” could refer to when she returns from her conquest to share that revolutionary idea, and the remainder of Verse 2 could refer to the idea being carried forward into the future by people it has influenced;
Finally, the person watching over her actions as depicted above would be the person she went through that futuristic life with, whom remains in the capital of the city governing things (maybe…?)

Again, this is what I personally interpret, taking into consideration what I got from Worlds, which may or may not be linked to the events occurring in Shelter, but until Porter gives us more about the universe he’s created (if one even exists), this is just what my hyperactive brain has come up with in effort to bridge Porter’s two creations together into one cohesive timeline.
Anyway, that’s all that’s from me today. Going by the posting schedule of things, I’m supposing Aru-kun has something up for next week? Guess that means you guys have gotta come back for his stuff. I’ve got a coupla’ reviews in the pipeline on my end too, but it’s all up to Nano-Chan to decide who goes when…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s