Recess - Skrillex
Written by Enoch Kim (@ProCreateEnoch)
Everything you thought you knew about Skrillex fucking changes now. If you thought Skrillex was a one-trick pony you’re wrong. If you thought Skrillex represented the gross commercialization and gentrification of EDM you’re wrong. If you liked Skrillex because his music was comfortable and familiar well fuck you too because Recess changes everything.
But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s be reminded that this is Skrillex’s first LP. After years of being the most recognizable figure on the scene, six EPs, three fucking Grammys, Skrillex had a lot riding on him for his first LP. It needed to be big, revolutionary, any less and it’d be spitting in the face of the Skrillex name. Go big or go home, man.
So I guess it’s rather comforting that Recess not only came out of fucking nowhere but it is Skrillex’s most revolutionary and diverse (and diversive but I hold no stake in that fight) release. Skrillex puts his own spin on everything from drumstep to dnb, IDM, smooth R&B, trap, an-holy shit is that the fucking Ragga Twins?! (More on that later) The more astounding part is that with few exceptions Skrillex hits it out of the ballpark every single time. Album namesake Recess exemplifies Skrillex’s ability to juggle genres while leaving his unmistakable “Skrillex” brand. The smoothness of trumpets, subdued drumstep percussion, and Michael Angelakos’s soothing voice is sharply contrasted by Fatman Scoop’s harsh, driving, fucking demanding MCing and Skrillex’s standard brostep saw synths. Of course, Skrillex doesn’t forget his brostep roots. Album opener All is Fair in Love and Brostep and Alvin Risk collaboration Try It Out represent the absolute mastery of brostep. Skrillex has got some arcane magic shit because he knows where to put every frequency, which place a drop will result in maximum amount of headbanging, what melody will stick in my head the longest.
Okay I’ve waited long enough, let’s talk about the fucking Ragga Twins.
Before drum and bass, before trance, before EDM or brostep or dubstep or whatever the fuck there was jungle and ragga. Derived from Jamaican soundsystem scene, ragga basically fucking started rave and their superstars were the Ragga Twins. David and Trevor Destouche; better known as MCs Demon Rockers and Flinty Badman; turned ragga MCing into a fucking artisanal skill; they were the standard, they exemplified and defined what ragga and rave as a whole sounded like. Their voices weren’t just something added for the sake of a vocalist, they were essential. A ragga MC could basically fill in for another synth; a deep, powerful, and snare-like voice was essential and no one did it better than the Ragga Twins.
Eventually as EDM became more popular and veered its influences away from rave and jungle to french house and dub, ragga and its MCs fell to the wayside and out of the spotlight.
And then in 2014 Sonny motherfuckin’ Moore put the god damn Ragga Twins on a fucking EDM record.
That’s one hell of a comeback but it’s also rather indicative of the album as a whole. A rather amusing riff on his fan’s insistence that Skrillex is alien, Recess is in a whole an exploration into realms that are maybe familiar to us or is a clear part of the lineage to Skrillex’s sound but are completely uncharted territory to Skrillex himself. When the NY Times’s Jon Carmanica reviewed Recess earlier last week he chalked it up to Skrillex returning to “the root of his roots”. But it’s also important to remember that before being Skrillex, Sonny Moore was the frontman to a post-hardcore emo band; rave’s not really in his blood.
In this way Recess’s alien motif is absolutely brilliant in that it’s an admission that all this shit is new to Sonny, not just these bouts into other genres that Skrillex is not known for, and at the same time a determination to dive headfirst into everything and anything new. It totally works if I were to list every single favorite moment from Recess this would be next week’s album. If it’s not that the fucking Ragga Twins are featured it’s that for a brief moment Skrillex played a bit with IDM in Doompy Poomp or maybe when those laser synths signature of Alvin Risk started firing in Try It Out or Chance the Rapper’s soulful intro for Coast is Clear or… FUCK.
Not everything is gold, however. Though they’re starting to grow on me, I’m not entirely sold on Ease My Mind or Fire Away. Ease My Mind feels too much like a generic melodrama-on-the-floor song even with a healthy heaping of bass drops and Fire Away’s placement at the end of the album feels like a cop out attempt to make a cohesive album- except he didn’t really need the help. Recess feels like a fucking album, not a collection of miscellaneous tracks which is a rarity in mainstream music (let alone EDM) but after 10 tracks of fun loving tracks Fire Away feels like a bummer. It doesn’t celebrate the album, it mourns its end and yo that’s like anti-Skrillex.
And fuck man, this album should be celebrated. It’s not just a more diverse Skrillex, it’s a more diverse EDM scene and a celebration of the alien and familiar. If anything, you should buy this to just listen to Coast is Clear on repeat 30 times but it’s a must buy if you’ve got your ears on the ground for the next step for EDM.
Grade: A- Buy It