The top dubstep artist's new album offers a fresh look at the genre, drawing on the British bass underground to distinguish it from his previous records. However, the many collaborators on the album give it a disjointed feel
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After the success of 2010′s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, thousands of bedroom producers spent sleepless nights attempting to become the next Skrillex. By 2011, the entire landscape of electronic music had shifted, the mechanized bass-quake and distorted vocals in half-time infiltrating everything from trance to rave techno. As bass music kept pushing for the filthiest drops and mosh-worthy builds, Skrillex (née Sonny Moore) spent his time on the road developing recording relationships and broadening his production palette. With seven EPs produced under the Skrillex moniker by early 2013, Moore had more than enough material for a dedicated full-length, yet it never surfaced. As his signature haircut suggests, Moore has never been one to live by convention. So, when he participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything and subsequently launched his own Asteroids-like mobile app, fans worldwide set the Internet on fire with speculation that his debut LP was coming soon. Landing just after a series of international takeovers, the 11-track Recess showcases the talents of an artist who continues to be a student and fan, despite the large portion of the industry looking up to him as a supreme idol.
Moore is happy to accept his association with the raucous brostep movement that many of dance music’s elder statesmen find intolerable. He just won’t let himself be confined by those sounds. With the support of London’s Ragga Twins, Moore opens Recess with the sci-fi jungle of “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep”, which offers a fresh look at the subgenre and also makes a statement about industry expectations. The track also takes a slight dig at fellow bass producer Zomboy, who used elements of the track’s demo for his own “Terror Squad” single, which Moore samples on this final edit. This is the type of artistic/marketing brilliance that most cannot see when attempting to peer through Moore’s sweaty onstage persona.
From the method of release to the wording within the official OWSLA Soundcloud stream and choice of collaborators, Moore is using his brand recognition to create and market a product that will last long after the current group of bass-heads retire from the dance floor. Moore’s use of the “album release via accompanying mobile app” concept builds buzz inherently. This strategy has helped push Recess, which can be obtained for free across multiple legal and illegal sources, atop the iTunes charts. At the OWSLA SoundCloud page, his label isn’t asking you to buy the album, but merely “support” Skrillex and the rest of the label, a roster that is selectively featured across the release. Alvin Risk is the man behind the ethereal vibes within “Try It Out”, while Kill the Noise shows off some of his former D&B skills on the title track. The album also places the spotlight on up-and-comer KillaGraham during the garage-leaning “Stranger” and electro-folk singer/songwriter Kid Harpoon within “Fire Away”, the latter featuring a heavy dose of Disclosure-esque percussion and lyrical texture. However, the remaining list of featured artists serves more to extend the reach of the album outside of the Skrillex fanbase and fortify his perceived respect across dance music.
The Ragga Twins help build Skrillex’s status across the British bass underground, where much of the aesthetic of this album finds its roots. That international edge is also heavy in the Diplo-featuring “Dirty Vibe”, which pulls together Southern hip-hop with vocals courtesy of South Korea’s CL and G-Dragon. Sure, Moore and Diplo could have found a rapper stateside worthy of featuring on the album, but that wouldn’t have reeled in the same level of international appeal. The album also recruits some standouts from the indie crossover sector (à la Major Lazer’s summer smash “Bubble Butt” with Bruno Mars), using Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit to hit the high notes of “Recess” and editing Niki and The Dove’s beach-side “Ease My Mind” with saw-jaw electro. The intermittent sound of ivory plucks, Mario coins, and handclaps of “Coast Is Clear” create a funky base for Chance the Rapper to ooze his standard charisma, yet when the track wraps, one is left thirsty for the proper R&B-meets-D&B of a group like Rudimental.
With Skrillex’s synth swipes holding it together, the album cannot help but become disjointed due to the numerous collaborators. That also means that Skrillex is introducing his league of fans to styles of EDM they might not normally experience, which only benefits the future of electronic music culture. Nearly half of the tracks also point to a producer that isn’t trapped in clubland, as singles like “Stranger” and “Fire Away” are proper for bedroom enjoyment. Nonetheless, before Grammy members give Moore another armful of awards, they’ll need to open their ears to fellow genre-bending producers like Mat Zo and Eric Prydz.
Essential Tracks: “Stranger”, “Dirty Vibe”, and ”Fire Away”
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