Skrillex - Recess

A hint at broader musical ambitions.

Label: OWSLA/BigBeat/Atlantic

Rating:

The Scottish referendum. General elections. Skrillex. Ladies and gentlemen, the divisive issues of our time. But, like all big questions, most people have already decided where they stand long before they have really got to grips with anything. So, what does Sonny Moore’s ‘debut’ album actually sound like?

For starters, it’s not a debut. Yes, ‘My Name Is’, ‘Scary Monsters’ and ‘Bangarang’ were EPs and yes ‘Recess’ is the first ‘full length’ Skrillex album, but two Grammies under his belt and a quirky release make this record deserving of its own special category - let’s call it ‘Advanced Learner Entry’. All this to highlight just how our familiar we are with the defining Skrillex characteristic: giant-slaying novelty bass drops, the likes of which were previously only imagined in the computerised nightmares of K-holed IT technicians.

The result of this familiarity is that ‘Recess’ is unlikely to win Skrillex legions of instant new fans. High frequency squeals, sub-bass thunderings and terrifying digital arpeggios are all on the menu here, and enough to alienate the casual browser instantly. A quick inspection reveals two collaborations with London DnB MCs the Ragga Twins, a quite frankly unhinged centrepiece courtesy of Diplo, and K-Pop’s enfants terribles CL and G-Dragon, and the album’s eponymous track which is nothing short of an open declaration of war on this summer’s EDM jugular. And all these are immensely enjoyable. 

With an album opener called ‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’ though, you suspect Skrillex has a slightly more wry aspect to his personality than he lets on. While ‘Recess’ certainly doesn’t stray too far from the prize-winning formula, it does begin to reflect on what exactly Skrillex’s music is, as well as the significant influence it has had on other genres. ‘Coast is Clear’ for example, sounds very at home on the record, but with Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment on board it’s also very clearly a modern hip-hop track. Likewise, a reworking of Niki & The Dove’s ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’ and the calmer, cooler house sounds of album closer ‘Fire Away’, both hint at broader musical ambitions that are matched in terms of Skrillex’s touring and output.

For sure, ‘Recess’ is not the last piece in the puzzle in terms of artist development. The triumphant announcements from the record label might want you to think that, but as an album it’s nowhere near that grand - which is very much to its credit. Instead, this is the sound of an artist who has allowed himself to take a break and record eleven tracks he would like to release. A fitting recess indeed and as such, an endearing snapshot and promise to deliver on more potential in the future.