Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Album Review: Skrillex - Recess

Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Go ahead, insert your favorite Skrillex joke here. Get it out of your system. I will wait.

It is doubtful anyone's opinion of Mr. Sonny John Moore is going to change based on a simple review. You are either on board with his big room EDM assault or you think it sounds like machinery being melted down. But there is no denying that Skrillex is still one of the most sought after DJs on the festival circuit and is likely to be for some time. Recess, Skrillex's first full-scale album, is an interesting look into where Skrillex has been, where he is, and where he might be going. As I point out in a lot of my reviews, I am usually drawn more to music an artist puts out that stretches their boundaries and takes me to a new place. Strangely here, I find that Skrillex does best when he stays with what he knows best; whereas, his experiments and other genre exercises find him either curiously flat or just out of his element completely.

What I do love about Skrillex is that is well-aware of the haters out there and even throws in a joke right off the bat with the title of first song "All Is Fair In Love And Brostep" and yet still manages to come up with a killer track.

And when Skrillex sticks to his strengths he usually knocks it out of the park. Title track "Recess," a collaboration with Kill The Noise, brings all the usual Skrillex elements to the mix, sing-songy vocal samples, killer build up, and massive bass drop;

"Dirty Vibe" with Diplo is another maniacal and relentless track;

"Try It Out" starts out uncharacteristically muted and atmospheric for Skrillex until his patented bass drop explodes from the speakers;

and he recasts the haunting Niki and the Dove track "Ease My Mind" into a dancehall-inflected workout.

And I understand that as an artist you don't want to stick to making the same song over and over again and, for that, I applaud Skrillex for really stepping out on some tracks and experimenting with who Skrillex is, but honestly, it finds him moving away from something distinctive and almost fading into the background or just going off the rails entirely. "Stranger" thumps along on a muted percussive track and bobbing bass line, but just plods along for a very long five minutes;

"Doompy Poomp" is perhaps the major head scratcher here, a wonky psychedelic number that is just plain bizarre;

and you can definitely tell Skillex has been listening to a lot of Burial, which finds his influence seeping into final track "Fire Away," which is a gorgeous track but is basically ruined by an incongruous vocal that should have been left off.

Skrillex finds himself in an interesting place. Being at the top of his game and headlining most of the major festivals this year, he can certainly not be faulted if he wanted to rest on his laurels and churn out bass drop after bass drop, but Mr. Moore seemingly wants more than just that. I may not like some of these side trips he makes on Recess, but I certainly appreciate his willingness to strive for something different. Somewhere in this mix of tracks is a more happy medium for his trademarked sound and some more experimentation. Here is hoping he continues that journey.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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