Despite his meteoric rise to the EDM spotlight, dubstep producer Sonny Moore, better known as Skrillex, has never released a full-length album. Skrillex broke into the EDM scene in 2010 with two EP’s, My Name is Skrillex and Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites. Skrillex then secured his place atop the charts with 2011’s Bangarang EP, featuring singles “Bangarang” and “Breakin’ a Sweat.” Since then, Moore has been relatively quiet. The release of his first LP, Recess, was equally quiet. Skrillex released the album cryptically; the “Alien Ride” app was mysteriously posted to the iPhone’s App Store, and contained all eleven of his new songs, and the album became available for free streaming in the iTunes store on March 10th.
Expecting a typical blaring, screech and Transformer-noise filled album that I’ve come to anticipate from dubstep records, I was pleasantly surprised by this release. Recess finds Skrillex expanding into new territory, while still retaining his old flair. Simply said, there is something in here for everybody.
1. “All is Fair in Love and Brostep” ft. Ragga Twins
In typical fashion, Skrillex opens the record with a bang featuring a vocal sample that cheekily asks the question, “guess who’s back motherf****r?” The opening track is much what you’d expect from Skrillex: affected reggae vocals, heavy electronic drums, loud automobile-like noises. The works.
2. “Recess” ft. Kill the Noise, Fatman Scoop & Michael Angelakos
Sampling Passion Pit’s lead singer and renowned MC, Fatman Scoop, in the same song? Skrillex is up for the challenge, laying into a funky swing groove that features some of the bulkiness from the previous track, while changing the pace of the album.
3. “Stranger” ft. KillaGraham & Sam Dew
Skrillex begins to really switch grooves on us here, playing with a conga-line style beat and smooth vocals, leading into a thumping dance beat that would get any club moving. Everything about this song makes me want to bounce around.
4. “Try it Out (Neon Mix)” ft. Alvin Risk
A surefire festival jam, “Try it Out (Neon Mix)” reminds me of being lost in the neon lights of Electric Forest Festival. The song displays Skrillex’s ability to expand his sound while still remaining consistent to his dubstep roots, starting with a chillwave texture overlaid with a hypeman’s vocals and then exploding into a throbbing dubstep beat.
5. “Coast is Clear” ft. Chance the Rapper & The Social Experiement
This is my favorite song off of “Recess”, probably because it is the most accessible to the average listener, and if I had to classify it, I’d call it smoothstep. Chance croons over synthy vibes and jazzy piano reminiscent of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas songs, while the piece develops into another bouncy dance tack featuring a drum n’ bass breakbeat. Don’t be surprised if this velvety track finds its way into parties, and bedrooms, fairly soon.
6. “Dirty Vibe” ft. Diplo, G-Dragon and CL
The album starts to reheat towards the middle, and “Dirty Vibe” acts as the kindling. You can really feel the Diplo influence here, as the manipulated voices run wild over a twerk-inducing club beat. The verses by G-Dragon and CL are a nice embellishment of Skrillex’s new trap influence.
7. “Ragga Bomb” ft. Ragga Twins
At this point, Skrillex falters. “Ragga Bomb” sounds exactly like Flosstradamus’ “Rollup,” (they’re even in the same key), and he falls back into a recognizable dubstep thrash. The only thing even remotely reggae here is the featuring of Ragga Twins, but I guess it wouldn’t be a dubstep album without Skrillex taking his aggression out on our eardrums.
8. “Doompy Poomp” ft. Mishka
The songs goofy title reflects the great deal of mischievous experimentation found within this piece. Shattered vocal samples are placed rhythmically over a swinging groove that, while lacking real substance, is catchy in its own right. The breakdown features a synth lead with a melody reminiscent of a swung, stoned version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” While the track could have been fleshed out more, I appreciate the dramatic change of pace it provides and its playfulness.
9. “F*** That”
From the title you’d expect another banger, but Skrillex deceives the listener by providing a trance-infused dance tune. Playing with various beats, dissonant synths, and a warbling bass, Skrillex crafts an excellent late night club/festival track.
10. “Ease My Mind” ft. Niki & The Dove
This track is simply a remix of Niki & The Dove’s “Ease My Mind,” and I actually enjoy this version more than the original as Skrillex breathes new life into the track with a Middle Eastern synth melody and his usual heavy dubstep drum kit. Though it is somewhat conventional for Skrillex at this point, its still a solid remix.
11. “Fire Away” ft. Kid Harpoon
Dim the lights for this one. “Fire Away” is such an interesting way to end the album, leaving the listener feeling calm after the ride they’ve just been on. Sampling Kid Harpoon’s soothing vocals, Skrillex creates a somber, spacey palette that is best experienced lying in bed at midnight. The crisp piano at the end is a beautiful touch, and the sloshing white noise that is present throughout the piece stands alone, bringing a sense of finality to the album.
Recess is an album that reaffirms Skrillex’s place as dubstep’s pioneer, featuring some true dubstep headbangers. The true worth of this album, however, is found in his experimentation, as tracks like “Coast is Clear,” “Doompy Poompy,” and “Fire Away” permeate other genres such as trance, trip-hop and chillwave. The only drawback to the album is that some of these songs feel out of place – how does the soothing nature of “Fire Away” fit in with the raw aggression of “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep?” Some songs, while they might be justifiable on their own, simply failed in the context of the album, such as the limp “Ragga Bomb” and the obscure “F*** That.” While the majority of the tracks are solid, and a few excellent, the album feels scattered as a whole. That said, it is a brave effort by an artist who already found his niche to prove that he is a musician who deserves respect among his peers, and I am excited to keep listening to this album.