ALBUM REVIEW – “Recess” by Skrillex

It’s truly a sign of the times in music today that an artist can rise to an undisputed position at the top of a genre for four years before even releasing his debut album. One of the most successful and important DJs of the last few years, Skrillex has reshaped dubstep in his own ultra-distorted, high adrenaline mould and stood at the forefront of the movement to bring EDM into the American mainstream. The release of his first full-length has obviously been a long time coming, and many have expressed the belief that he’s left it too late. Recess does seem like a pivotal moment in the young man’s career, as much as his decision to leave From First to Last years ago.

The Skrillex formula is one that’s been imitated and satirised extensively, but the fact is that nobody does it quite like him. The steady rise before the inevitable thumping drop is a technique he employs frequently, but time and again his sheer production nous means he gets away with it: ‘All’s Fair in Love and Brostep’, ‘Try It Out’ and ‘Ragga Bomb’ all follow the same template and may be nothing fresh, but they’re all exciting in a primal, simplistic fashion. The title track and ‘Fuck That’ follow the other great Skrillex precedent in more commercial house, the former in particular sounding like it could be a massive chart dance floor filler.

What really impresses about Recess, though, are the moments of experimentation that finally prove that Skrillex is no one trick pony. Admittedly, some of these forays into uncharted territories don’t quite work, Chance the Rapper collaboration ‘Coast is Clear’ simply coming off more sleazy than fun. But for the most part the more melodic numbers that Skrillex throws himself wholeheartedly into add huge amounts of character to the album as a whole, the lo-fi ‘Doompy Poomp’ and sumptuous, understated ‘Stranger’ are both beautiful pieces of melodic music that reach peaks he’s never previously attained.

The best, though, is saved for the final one-two punch. ‘Ease My Mind’ takes a gorgeous melody borrowed from Niki & the Dove and warps into a breathtaking eastern-tinged colossus of a song. It represents the absolute peak of the complete experience of Recess, before final song ‘Fire Away’ provides an exquisite epilogue. Glitching vocals fit seamlessly into a musical backdrop subtler than anything Skrillex has done before. The two songs together provide a magnificent closing sequence to an album that, a few dips in quality aside (the aforementioned ‘Coast is Clear’, as well as letdown Diplo collaboration ‘Dirty Vibe’) is consistently impressive.

Skrillex will no doubt remain a hugely controversial figure in the EDM sphere and the wider music world, but with Recess he’s put his money where his mouth his and proved exactly why he’s at the pinnacle of modern dubstep, and gone beyond its traditional parameters too. From his nascent beginnings fronting From First to Last to his massive success today, Sonny Moore has gone through a lot. Now is his time to reap the rewards of the hard work he’s put in since he was a teenager.

Rating: 8/10

[Michael Bird]

‘Try It Out’

‘Ease My Mind’

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