‘Recess’ Shows Tricks up Skrillex’s Sleeve
Jimmy Kemper | Thursday, March 20, 2014
“Dance like it hurts to stand still.”
Chance the Rapper’s lyrics in “Coast is Clear” seem to define the very essence of Sonny Moore, better known by his stage name Skrillex, and the fervor of his new album “Recess.” This new record, in a Beyoncé-esque fashion, was released without announcement through Skrillex’s Alien Ride smartphone app early last week, followed by wide release this Tuesday, March 17.
Skrillex is a controversial artist: He is a paragon who has brought a somewhat underground genre to a much wider audience and also a pariah in the eyes of those who believe he debased the dubstep genre, brought the headache-inducing “brostep” into the limelight and inspired a number of wannabe, clueless EDM producers. He first gained his wild mainstream attention in 2010 with the release of his “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” EP and the YouTube-topping title hit that went along with it. Since then, Skrillex has had an extremely prolific career, releasing a number of other EPs and going on several world tours, but “Recess” is actually the first time Skrillex has sat down to make a full studio album.
“Recess” begins with raw, explosive power in “All is Fair in Love and Brostep,” which builds anticipation with the Ragga Twins’ twisted lyrics until a brain-warping, deafening drop bursts in that only Skrillex could pull off. At this point in his career, Skrillex is well known for these drops, but the dubstep master still has a trick or two up his sleeve. He has refined his style to the point of near-perfect breaks that are worth the wait and the buildup. This song is just the fun, classic Skrillex that we know and love at the top of his game.
One of the best aspects of this album is the great variety of influences and collaborations that Skrillex brings in, especially in “Coast is Clear,” featuring hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper. The song is an absolutely unexpected gem in the middle of the album, with a nice, rolling piano track and smooth lyrics by Chance that make it more a pop hit than jagged electronic music. Although this may not be Skrillex’s standard tune, the producer is not out of his element and has put together a song that could be a top-40 hit, if it wasn’t for the bold repetition of unprintable lyrics.
Another great collaboration comes in the form of “Dirty Vibe” with fellow EDM producer Diplo and K-Pop artists CL and G-Dragon. Diplo’s influence is pretty clear in this track, as it bounces up and down with a brisk, brutal energy that gets people going.
By far the best track on “Recess” is “Stranger.” As with “Coast is Clear,” Skrillex is experimenting with new sounds and showing off his well-roundedness as a producer, mixing in smooth percussion, sublime lyrics and a sexy and smart synth riff. The shift from old-school, booming Skrillex mixes to this cool, slow anthem is unanticipated but absolutely satisfying.
As great as some of these tracks are, a few unfortunate tracks fall short of expectations. The cartoonish vibe in “Doompy Poomp” pushes more toward ridiculous than funny, and “Recess” is a forgettable song at best, but overall, Skrillex is starting to show signs of advancement and maturity in his work by slowly pushing his music toward new directions.
Not every album can be a genre-bending, groundbreaking piece of work that redefines how we look at music. But not every album should be. I’m not advocating mediocrity here, but sometimes it’s nice to just have something fun that doesn’t try too hard to be revolutionary. “Recess” by no means is a mediocre album, and it clearly shows off Skrillex’s talent as an EDM producer. There is a wide variety of interesting songs on this album, and the best part is the pure entertainment they present. Skrillex went into this album to make something fun that you can dance to, and although he slips up at times, “Recess” is a solid dubstep album for both fans of the genre and those looking for something new.