Few figures in music today are as divisive as Sonny Moore – or Skrillex, the man almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the term “dubstep” into the lexicon. To some, he’s the savior of electronic music who inexplicably brought fluro-singleted beefcakes (or day-glo tank-topped frat boys if you’re from the USA) together with sweaty, mouth-breathing computer nerds in fist-flailing harmony. To others, he sounds like little more than an overheated dot-matrix printer or your mum accidentally starting a house fire by vacuuming up your Tamagotchi. Whichever camp you fall into, he’s sure to make a splash with his long-awaited debut LP Recess, featuring an interesting collective of collaborators and cementing his place as the king of brostep.
This must be a distinction of which he is cheekily aware, since the album kicks off with the vocoder/drop-heavy and wryly titled opener All Is Fair In Love And Brostep featuring veteran UK Jungle collective Ragga Twins. If you’re already a fan, then this will probably hook you immediately as it ticks all the boxes that got Moore to where he is today but if not, try to stick it out; later in the record he starts to branch out. Following on is the bouncy title track with guest appearances by Kill The Noise and Brooklyn’s Fatman Scoop. You may remember the latter from his 2003 single Be Faithful, and if you enjoyed being incessantly yelled at for the 3 minutes and 35 seconds of that song, you’ll be right at home here. “BASS DROP!”
Next up is Stranger, a KillaGraham co-production with vocals from Sam Dew. It skirts with James Blake-esque post-dubstep for the first minute and a half before feedback sirens and major-league wub-wub-wubs quickly snap you back into a zone much closer to Moore’s wheelhouse. The “Neon Mix” of last October’s lead single Try It Out (with a little help from Alvin Risk) sounds like an overnight Red Bull fueled video game binge and leads into one of the album highlights Coast Is Clear. Featuring the soulful flow of up-and-coming Chicago MC Chance The Rapper, it’s futurist Drum-n-Bass with an R&B sensibility and it arrives just in time to reel you back in if amphetamine-heavy EDM isn’t entirely your bag.
Fellow high-profile producer Diplo appears on the appropriately named Dirty Vibe – a mid-tempo banger that plays to the strengths of both parties, sounding pretty much exactly like what you’d expect seeing these two names together. The second Ragga Twins appearance, Ragga Bomb alternates between ‘90s sounding breakbeats and the grating, half-time digital noise that fans seem to love. Whereas the wonderfully sloppy, relaxed beat of Doompy Poomp is the other of Recess’ highlights. It’s dreamy and a little Flume-ish, but this is a good thing and provides some much-needed reprieve from the aggressive nuclear fallout vibe heard on most of the album.
Speaking of “aggressive”, the one-two punch of the cavernous F**k That and the misleadingly titled Ease My Mind – featuring some plaintive Stevie Nicks-style vocals from Swedes Niki & The Dove – really drill the cascading dynamics synonymous with dubstep home. This is right before the collection rounds out with the ambient Fire Away which wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a “chillout” style complilation from 2006.
Love him or hate him, with Recess Skrillex has done a great job in both satisfying his already massive fan-base, as well as planting a few seeds for it to potentially grow. As to be expected, even though it’s a mere 11 tracks long it’s pretty fatiguing and almost surely not designed to be absorbed in a single, uninterrupted sitting. Undoubtedly each track will be chopped into DJ sets around the globe for at least the rest of the year and for this, Sonny Moore should be pretty stoked.