Album review: Skrillex – Recess

Originally published in The Broadie

Since his breakout with 2010’s boisterous Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, Los Angeles native Skrillex has become the poster boy of the EDM revolution. With copious brostep, a dubstep-based sound that Spin labelled as “lurching and aggressive” in a polite way of saying it sounds like a live cat going through a meat grinder, and a haircut to match, Sonny Moore has polarised and alienated, but created a whole new mainstream electronic scene, especially in the US. His first full length album, Recess, of course stays true to the genre that made him a superstar, while also half-heartedly dangling a toe near every pond.

Despite my preferences for music that sounds, well, less like a chainsaw in my ear, I don’t entirely despise the concept of Skrillex, though opener ‘All’s Fair In Love And Brostep’ made me instantly reconsider. Led by a joyful proclamation of “guess who’s back motherfuckers,” Skrillex shows he’s happy to be home and making exactly the same generic track he’s been cruising on for nearly half a decade. The moments on Recess that conform to his signature style are indeed painful – elements of ‘Ragga Bomb’ strike me as the closest humans have come to the elusive ‘brown noise’ – though thankfully a slew of collaborators guide him down more enjoyable paths.

The title track is my favourite on the album, bringing together Passion Pit and Fatman Scoop over a humane instrumental backdrop, while Chance The Rapper’s surprise appearance on ‘Coast Is Clear’ somehow creates a jazzy dubstep track reminiscent of Calvin Harris before he became a member of the EDM Death Machine. Diplo drags Skrillex towards the trap world with ‘Dirty Vibe,’ a painfully unoriginal cut from two highly talented producers with lyrics that struggle to evolve beyond ‘ass ass ass ass.’

One of the few tracks on which Skrillex is left to his own devices is ‘Doompy Poomp,’ which is exactly as bad as the title suggests. Goat Simulator, a game that thrives upon its intentional horribility, would not even sink to the levels of ‘Doompy Poomp’ on its gloriously dreadful soundtrack. ‘Lose My Mind,’ a remix of Niki & The Dove, opens with a panting dog before a very nice finale in the shape of ‘Fire Away,’ a chilled closer like Bangarang’s Ellie Goulding collaboration ‘Summit,’ but by this point it’s too late.

Skrillex can’t seem to decide what he wants Recess to be. Is it an attempt to churn out the same stabby tripe as before? Does he want to bring new artists under his wings and venture paths untrodden? Is ‘Doompy Poomp’ a joke? Nothing quite fits together. It’s like a jigsaw where every piece is a polygon with a different number of sides, and only Fatman Scoop provides a shining light at the end of the tunnel.

Out now via OWSLA

Author: Xavier Voigt-Hill

I write words. Sometimes say them on the radio too.