|Album Review: Skrillex – Recess|
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The ever-controversial and inspiring musician Skrillex, after what was almost three years of waiting, has finally released his third full-length studio album. Sonny Moore has been labelled "the most hated man in dubstep" by some and praised for his creative work on his personal label, OWLSA, by others. If you have been following Skrillex over the past few years since his rise to fame, then there's a high chance you've engaged in some sort of debate over the musician's work. This controversy seems partly what led to such a long delay for the album; any artist would reasonably have hesitations if they knew putting out their work would ignite endless flame wars. Yet Sonny is a creator whose ideas cannot be slowed and the negative energy around the name Skrillex simply fueled him to create alternative side projects such as Jack U and Dog Blood. EARMILK is happy to finally have the chance to bring his most recent full length work into the spotlight, something long overdue for this producer.
Recess first came across as a genre crossing, sound experimenting, mix of several artists. Skrillex seems to have used his influence in the EDM community to work with musicians from all ranges of genres, not just specifically other electronic music producers. This seems somewhat like a decision to expand his own musical capabilities and to appease his music to a large amount of fans. For the most part it works smoothly, yet there are a few troublesome problems apparent in the colourful order of songs outlined below.
Skrillex starts Recess with a heavy tune titled, "All Is Fair In Love And Brostep," beginning the album with his original style that created so much stir around his name in the first place. The track features Ragga Twins along side a retro sample that sounds similar to Knife Party's typical inclusion of strange samples that add suspense. The actual structure is chaotic and held together with a slur of lyrics from the Ragga Twins. The track acts as an introduction to an expansion of genres, beginning with his signature style of aggressive bass mixed with sharp synths.
Stream: Skrillex – All Is Fair In Love And Brostep (feat. Ragga Twins)
"Recess" is somewhat playful with an interesting blend of musicians who collaborated on this track. The main vocals are from hype-man Fatman Scoop whose lyrics have little depth. The real highlight of this song is not centred around the vocals, but the aggressive breakdown that explodes with high energy lasers and a moombah underlying tone. Kill The Noise also worked on this track whose influence is apparent in the lighter build and softer vocals.
Stream: Skrillex – Recess (feat. Fatman Scoop and Kill The Noise)
It was interesting to see the song "Stranger" included on the album as it came out a few weeks prior on the soundtrack of upcoming feature film, Divergent. After two dub-infused tracks leading the start of Recess, the placement of "Stranger" comes as no surprise. With a tropical vibe, the track goes from a vibrant composition to a completely toned down, trapped out finish. With harsh synths and explosive kicks, Milo and Otis's contribution shines right through that final drop.
Stream: Skrillex – Stranger (feat. Milo and Otis)
Skrillex surprisingly included only one single from his EP with Alvin Risk, which is the Neon Mix of "Try It Out." The track was featured on a three track EP and released prior to Recess through Big Beat Records. Between all three versions, (Put Em Up Mix and Try Harder Mix) the Neon Mix received the most attention for having an official video. Yet despite what seems like the most emotionally charged version (i.e. a video highlighting his past experiences along side his friends), it is relatively the less aggressive version of all three. Sonny's choice to keep the Neon version is not one I entirely agree with but makes sense with toning down the amount of heavy dubstep on the start of the album.
Stream: Skrillex – Try It Out (Neon Mix feat. Alvin Risk)
Skrillex takes a softer turn on his collaboration with Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment. "Coast Is Clear" is a smooth mix of footwork percussion with light lyrics that are layered beautifully overtop of the beat. The intro begins on what might be a jazz track but the picked up tempo instantly leaves you with new expectations.
Stream: Skrillex – Coast Is Clear (feat. Chance The Rapper & The Social Experiment)
"Dirty Vibe" starts on a high energy note that develops into an aggressive and fast paced track. The beat comes in on a fast paced tempo that gives way around the half way point. CL and K-Pop star G-Dragon take over the second half of the track with their lyrics layered over top in a slower finish.
Stream: Skrillex – Dirty Vibe (feat. G-Dragon, CL, and Diplo)
Skrillex brings the Ragga Twins back in for one more explosive track on his album. "Ragga Bomb" is a bass heavy treat that brings some extra influence from the Ragga Twins, as opposed to their first collaboration on the album. "All Is Fair In Love and Brostep" pays testimony to Skrillex's old style with the lyrics "Guess Whose Back Motherfuck-", while "Ragga Bomb" shows Sonny's interest in raggae.
Stream: Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (feat. Ragga Twins)
"Doompy Poomp" is easily one of the strangest tracks on Skrillex's new album. I'm not sure how much play this track will get at his live shows but as a stretch of music style it falls a bit short. Using warped and distorted vocals it sounds some what cheery with a childlike composure. The real shine in this work does not come out tell at least half way. A vibrant piano partly saves this song, but just barely as it comes in for just the last half.
Stream: Skrillex – Doompy Poomp
One of the most versatile tracks on Recess is a darker deep house track titled, "Fuck That." The main riff is a heavy dub structure that grooves along on an eerie rhythm. "Fuck That" builds up consistently until Skrillex takes the dub structure and does what he does so well with an ever ascending vibe. The final drop is a sawtoothed rip at the beat that completely changes the tempo in a violent turn of events.
Stream: Skrillex – FucK That
The original of this track was actually a remix by Skrillex of Niki and The Dove. Skrillex first premiered this energetic track at the end of Day of the Dead performance to an onslaught of cheers from the crowd. Since then, there has been countless rips of the live recording floating around virally over the Internet, so it comes as ease to some that the 320 version is finally out. The remix is high strung with lasers going off in every direction and an arabic melody that is not relatively new in EDM right now. The real highlight of this track is the memorizing vocals from Niki who still can shine through the bass.
Stream: Skrillex – Ease My Mind (feat. Niki and The Dove)
To conclude this entire album, Skrillex finishes on a rather sobering note. "Fire Away" is some what experimental and some what ambient. The track seems similar to Skrillex's 2o13 EP, Leaving, which first introduced a much softer side of the producer. Since then he has experimented with the slowed down glitch style several times, including "Puppy" and his most recent collaboration with Ellie Goulding, "Because." The song, "Fire Away," is a unique finish that gently lays the listener down after the roller coaster ride from the rest of the album.
Stream: Skrillex – Fire Away (feat. Kid Harpoon)
After having waited several years for Skrillex's next album, I come away with mixed feelings. When artists steer away from their past sound, it is often to their fans disappointment. It is always strange when a musician you've devoted your interests to is changing their music that you feel devoted towards. It becomes a rather bittersweet relationship and is experienced countless times. Recess is an interesting case because Skrillex includes his classic style of dubstep but then also experiments in several other genres. At first listen, this might seem suiting, it's as if he made a wide enough spectrum for everyone. Yet there is something missing from this musically colourful album; there is a lack of unity.
Many artists are constantly pushing boundaries in their own sound design and this strategy works wonderfully on three to four track EPs. When a musician makes an album though, there should be some connection between all the songs, a smooth transition from one piece to the next that shows the musician's thought as they developed a series of tracks. Recess seems like an attempt to please a wide demographic of fans, using as many collaborations as possible. The individual songs are all extremely well produced and really do show Skrillex's talent and ability to work seamlessly with other producers. Yet, this is not a chained song-by-song review, this is an album review and meant to look at Recess in its entirety. This album is not pushed past an eight because there is a lack of a central theme or flow from one song to the next. Yet, I cannot contest the fact that Skrillex is a talented musician and his individual skill and ability to share ideas with others is apparent on almost all of the tracks.