It’s hard to believe that Recess marks Skrillex’s first full-length. Over the past four years he’s become one of the biggest names in the electronic scene, playing headline shows all over the world, one of which I went to over two years ago knowing him as little more than the ex-vocalist of post-hardcore band From First To Last. Sonny Moore has distanced himself from his past, and Recess is another solid step forward, not differing massively from his past EPs, but marking a progression nonetheless.
Recess has seemingly come out of nowhere, dropped almost on a whim by its creator, and as a result it’s taken the scene by surprise, as is often Moore’s nature. Given that this is Skrillex’s first full length his discography is already extensive, taking in 7(?) EPs; dozens of remixes and collaborations; material recorded under the alias of Sonny and the numerous tracks releases prior to My Name Is Skrillex which only seem to exist on YouTube (Slats, Slats, Slats etc.). Given all that past material some of the tracks on Recess do sound very familiar, and no amount of guests and contributors can detract from the sometimes tired formula that laid the foundations for a lot of his past work. Tracks still start mellow and coasting before building to a textured drop, as is the case with mammoth opener All Is Fair In Love And Brostep and several of the tracks that follow. Sure, Moore has always used his own formula well, and the blend of synths, beats, samples, lasers and drops is still as smart and enticing as ever, but I can’t help but wish there were more experimental tracks outside of the likes of Stranger, which showcases a mellower and more adventurous delivery, mixing delicate vocals with nasally high synths for a calmer drop. Recess is around 75% hit and 25% miss, which isn’t a huge surprise considering that consistently excellent electronic albums are generally hard to come by.
Skrillex’s debut is immensely bolstered by collaborators on almost all of its eleven tracks, and these features help keep things fresh and interesting, with the likes of Kid Harpoon and Chance The Rapper bringing something unique in their own way, the latter making Coast Is Clear a playful albeit out-of-place track that oozes positivity over fuzzy undertones and a clever beat. The title track, which boasts the combination of Fatman Scoop and Passion Pit’s Micheal Angelakos, initially seems like an odd combination but in the end comes out golden, as Scoop builds to a great drop during which you can picture a crowd inhaling with anticipation and then going wild. Skrillex does a great job of catching that live energy on record, and for the most part Recess sounds absolutely huge, especially on Try It Out, which is trademark Skrillex through and through, mixing quirky vocals, stunning production and a ridiculous second drop. Recess is designed for a good time, and tracks like this one are exactly what people expect from a Skrillex release, and the addition of so many guests / friends adds something else to the audio feast the majority of tracks deliver. Moore paints vibrant and dynamic soundscapes throughout, and on its better moments Recess is unrivalled in terms of creativity, brimming with flair and electricity. Layer upon layer make for dense drops (Try It Out), whist the less intense moments (Fire Away) float by with a vivid lucidity, as they did on the recent Leaving EP.
The second half of Recess lets it down slightly, and highlights the real areas for improvement. Skrillex is constantly creative, but on a few tracks here he seems to take his foot of the case and opt for an easier route. The interestingly named Doompy Poomp sounds surprisingly clumsy by his normally high standards, whilst following track Fuck That has a harsher feel and ‘wubs’ reminiscent of older UK dubstep like Caspa, but never really makes a listener move. Seventh track Ragga Bomb again features Ragga Twins and makes for the most traditional Skrillex styled song on the record, pulsating with a grime feel similar to that on 2010’s Scatta, with an interesting drop to match. Ease My Mind is basically a remix of DJ Ease My Mind, with Niki & The Dove featuring on the track, and it pairs some nice ideas with some of the records more interesting moments, improving constantly. Closer Fire Away is a subtle and drawn out finale which cruises along on drifting melodies and never really explodes, making for a chilled and wholly fitting farewell that shows a side to Skrillex’s music which maybe should have featured more on his ‘debut’.
Recess is far from perfect, but it delivers what was expected with a little extra, keeping the anthems and adding a bit more depth in the process. It takes what’s made Skrillex so accessible and tweaks the formula slightly, bringing in a whole host of collaborators and stepping things up a notch, making for a dynamic and exceptionally well produced blend that appeals to fans from a range of genres. If Skrillex hasn’t already established himself as one of the best, Recess should see that he does.
Rating – 8/10
Listen to: All Is Fair In Love And Brostep / Try It Out / Ragga Bomb