Release Date: Mar 18, 2014
Record label: Atlantic / Big Beat / Big Beat Records
Genre(s): Electronic, EDM
Skrillex got famous by careening recklessly toward the future. The hits that made him dubstep's biggest star, from 2010's "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" to 2011's "First of the Year (Equinox)," sounded less like songs and more like a Transformer eating Voltron: He used otherworldly robot noise instead of instruments, sampled viral YouTube snippets instead of classic vinyl, and replaced verse-chorus-verse structure with gigantic drops – tense buildups that led into sudden, inevitable bass bombs. For many listeners, Skrillex's inhuman rhythms and synthetic sounds brought to mind the Key and Peele sketch about nosebleed-inducing dubstep: "I'm sorry, is that music?" To all the skeptics: Skrillex has heard your complaints.
Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) is one of the biggest names in electronic music, but despite stadium-filling shows and six Grammy Awards, Recess is the EDM superstar's first official full-length. The album shows he's progressed since bursting onto the scene four years ago, but it's definitely not going to change the minds of those who think he's ruining dance music. Moore takes on the haters from the get-go on All Is Fair In Love And Brostep, an unapologetically aggressive banger that embodies the derisive genre term referenced in the title.
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 ….
After releasing EP after EP, dubstep and EDM superstar Skrillex finally got around to releasing his debut album, but before making any assumptions about this debut's weight or sense of purpose, know that Recess was leaked via a video game app, a Skrillex-approved Asteroids clone called Alien Ride. Flashy fun with kinetic stuff happening all about, this good-time ride of an album is certainly suited for being leaked by a video game, coming on strong and silly with "All Is Fair in Love and Brostep," a bass-drop bonanza with Jamaican dancehall duo Ragga Twins taking the tune into Major Lazer territory. The Twins return for the like-minded "Ragga Bomb," a dubstep stunner although a redundant one, pointing out perhaps why the supernova Skrillex prefers the EP format at this stage.
After the success of 2010’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, thousands of bedroom producers spent sleepless nights attempting to become the next Skrillex. By 2011, the entire landscape of electronic music had shifted, the mechanized bass-quake and distorted vocals in half-time infiltrating everything from trance to rave techno. As bass music kept pushing for the filthiest drops and mosh-worthy builds, Skrillex (née Sonny Moore) spent his time on the road developing recording relationships and broadening his production palette.
He’s a festival-circuit megastar who’s already put an indelible sonic imprint on the early stretch of this decade, but it still feels like Sonny Moore got a raw deal. Sure, the fact Skrillex became the face of dubstep did plenty to rile the “purists,” but the Tempa–12“-hoarder set wasn’t responsible for reducing an unsubtle but genuinely adventurous and accessibly weird artist to a living meme. Outlets that eyerolled at first-wave dubstep as too niche belatedly rushed to hail Skrillex as the person who could—hallelujah!—finally make electronic music that you could mosh to and glibly compare to punk-fuckin’-rawk.
It’s been impossible to ignore the recent meteoric rise of EDM juggernaut Skrillex (aka Sunny Moore). Along with other producers like Avicii and Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex is responsible for reigniting America’s interest in electronic music and more notably dubstep, a genre that had been relatively unrepresented in the mainstream. Before Moore was irritating parents with his Grammy-winning thunderous bass wobbles, he was the frontman for post-hardcore outfit From First To Last.
I wanted to give Skrillex the benefit of the doubt. Almost four years since he stole the Beatport charts with Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, the American dubstep posterboy has been simultaneously held up as everything wrong with EDM and a precocious artist who happens to be the friendliest dude in the world. Infiltrating the mainstream further than most of his peers, Sonny Moore has worked with rappers and headlined countless festivals.
Review Summary: The honeymoon is over.It’s not entirely clear how seriously Skrillex is taking his productions on his long-awaited first full-length, Recess. Right out of the gates, the album explodes with the cheekily-titled “All is Fair in Love and Brostep,” and the apparent sarcasm of the title seemingly translates into the song’s structure and composition - the post-drop mid-range wobble is almost impossible to take seriously, so detuned and jarringly awful that it’s surprising Skrillex didn’t drop an air-horn or two into the mix (a la the wonderful “comic remixer” DJ @@). Unfortunately, as the album progresses, it becomes painfully obvious that Recess is blithely and unabashedly serious.
Look, this is massive fun. It starts by pretending that you’re in a space rocket and that it’s going to take stupendous power to fire into space and then it barrages you with electronic swoops and rumbles and crashes and the Ragga Twins. And the track is called ‘All’s Fair in Love and Brostep’. Then there’s massed vocals going “don’t let it stop” and “everything is alright”, and Fatman Scoop going “1-2-3-4-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce” and a rumpy-pumpy moombahton beat.
Three and a half years ago, Skrillex released “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” (mau5trap/Big Beat), the EP that would transform him from a onetime post-hardcore singer who dabbled in producing electronic music to the savior of dance music in this country. He did it with a particularly mean stripe of dubstep — dirty, aggressive and sometimes grating — that ignored subtlety and demanded dancing with pneumatic intensity, sometimes in complete ignorance of the beat. Thanks to the Internet, especially websites like Beatport, Skrillex’s sound spread quickly, and so did his influence.
Skrillex, Recess Man, I feel old. Is this what the kids are listening to these days? (I’m 22.) There’s something tremendously uninspiring about so-called “brostep,” even distasteful – its desecration of the U.K. bass cultures to which it owes its existence, maybe, or a lack of subtlety so pronounced it’s almost aggressive. I’ve read eloquent defenses of the big “drop” as the postmodern EDM equivalent of a classic rock guitar solo, which makes sense but doesn’t really redeem decades of bad guitar solos, if you know what I mean.