1. All Is Fair In Love and Brostep [feat. The Ragga Twins]
2. Recess [feat. Kill the Noise and Fatman Scoop]
4. Try It Out (Neon Mix) [feat. Alvin Risk]
5. Coast Is Clear [feat. Chance the Rapper]
6. Dirty Vibe [feat. Diplo]
7. Ragga Bomb [feat. The Ragga Twins]
8. Doompy Poomp
9. Fuck That
10. Ease My Mind
11. Fire Away [feat. Kid Harpoon]
Running time: 46:13
Love Skrillex or hate Skrillex, you have to give credit where it's due. At the ripe old age of 29, Sonny Moore is one of the biggest names in the music industry right now. He's sold millions of records, he's played to millions of people, headlined major festivals, and won six Grammy awards. But only last week did Skrillex actually get down to releasing a full-length studio album. Sure, Skrillex releases music on a regular basis, even if it's not always through regular means, but Recess is his first studio record as a solo artist. Let's not forget his stint with From First to Last. Of course, there are plenty of people who dismiss Skrillex as a guy who makes music on his laptop all day rather than someone of artistic merit and that's an interesting argument. What you can't argue with is the results.
So, after 11 EPs, various movie scores, dozens of featured guest spots and collaborations, what does Skrillex really have to offer? If Recess is any indication, not a lot. I'm someone who has enjoyed some aspects of Sonny Moore's output in the last few years, but Recess is void of anything even remotely creative. “All is Fair in Love and Brostep” opens up the record with a spoken word sampling that's more interesting than the music that follows it. 90s nobodies the Ragga Twins bring little to the table, and outside of the tongue in cheek, yet still awful, song title and the first drop, there's nothing to see here, and it's a poor way to open the record. Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit fame makes an appearance on the record's title track, providing some intricate horns that sit as a pleasant enough back drop for a rambunctious few minutes of dodgy samples and scattered beats. Fatman Scoop's “Put Your Hands Up” and “Turn It Up” are both sampled here, with disastrous results. Kill the Noise makes his first appearance on the record, and considering the talent involved you have to wonder how this ended up such the mess that it did. “Stranger” fares a little better. It's a much more mellow cut with something resembling a half-decent chorus and some intriguing percussion arrangements in the early going, but it still all feels a little bit directionless.
If you read or listen to any of Skrillex's interviews in recent weeks, he's very adamant that the record was made in an organic manor with many of the tracks being thrown together spontaneously through chance encounters with collaborators. And that's great, except the record doesn't sound like it's been thrown together, it sounds like it's been vomited out. There's plenty of versions of lead single “Try It Out” that have been doing the rounds for the past year or more, but it's a bizarre Neon Mix that makes the final cut of the record, and it's a puzzling one. The vocals are atrocious here. Chance the Rapper shows up on “Coast is Clear” and nearly manages to save the track and pull it from the dregs. His soulful vocal makes for a wonderful change of pace, but lyrically it's a poor effort, especially when you compare it to the mammoth success that was his debut album Acid Rap last year. Repeated cries of “do you want to fuck” don't exactly inspire much, and the genre bed-hopping throughout is a distraction more than a journey. There's some more pleasant horn arrangements as well, a feature of the record. “Dirty Vibe” is one of the record's more refreshing cuts, with credit for that likely going to the collaboration with Diplo who lays some pretty slick beats throughout.
The Ragga Twins, that pair that destroyed the first track, appear once again on the aptly titled “Ragga Bomb,” and it's at this point in the record that you really begin to ponder how Skrillex has had the successes he's had. And to stress the point, up until this record I would have considered my self at least a Skrillex sympathiser, if not a fan. “Ragga Bomb” does have an enjoyable intro with some distorted vocals, but it just doesn't pick up. The song plays it safer than a nun's sex life, and outside of the first drop a minute it, there's little to grab your attention, and the vocal stylings become infuriating by the half way point. “Doompy Poomp,” apart from being horrifically titled, is three and a half minutes of absolutely nothing. It's a good 45 seconds of the most peculiar sounds ever put to record, followed up with some more mind-boggling percussion that sounds like someone's molested a Pokemon. It actually builds to something of a climax with some pleasant enough synths, so at the very least it shows something resembling progression from the song's commencement to its conclusion, which is more than could be said for the majority of these tracks.
“Fuck That,” apart from summing up my thoughts on the previous track, is a little more channelled in terms of what it's trying to accomplish. The song takes a good while to find a rhythm, almost schizophrenically moving through sounds at an alarming rate, before settling for an all together more charming form of dub-step mid-way through. It's has an easy-going vibe that remains throughout and is much more akin to the kinds of songs we've heard on Skrillex's more recent EPs, namely Bangarang. The last minute or so of the track is a mind fuck, for sure. Penultimate track “Ease My Mind” plays with Niki and the Dove track of pretty much the same name, and it's the best song on the album. The vocals are completely unlike anything else you'll hear on the record, and after the previous nine tracks, it's the most refreshing shot in the arm you could imagine. Skrillex layers the track with twinkling synths and then proceeds to make it all his own by warping it into something entirely puzzling, adding warbling beats, mini-drops aplenty and frantic anarchy. It's tempo changes feel like natural progressions rather than haphazardly thrown together works of earlier in the record. “Fire Away” is another much more understated take, featuring Kid Harpoon adding a more soulful vocal over some R&B-tinged beats. The vocal is frequently distorted in a painful manner though, and it's distracting. The song casually erupts into drum and bass beats that sound little more pleasant than sped up elevator music, but it's certainly less grating that most of what has proceeded it. Skrillex seems to pay more care and attention to these last two tracks, and it's no doubt they're the best two on the record though the competition is hardly fierce.
The album's end comes like the slow release of death. I have time for this kind of music. I have had time for Skrillex in the past. But Recess is a poorly produced, haphazardly pieced shambles of a record with no identity, no sense of purpose and very few redeeming qualities. Steer clear.
Skrillex feat. Alvin Risk - “Try It Out (Neon Mix)”
The 411: Certain previous works of Sonny Moore aka Skrillex have taken three or four listens for me to really get into and enjoy, whereas other have caught my attention instantly. Because of this I made sure to give Recess a good few spins before making a final judgment on it, and I can now honestly say it's one of the worst albums I've heard in quite some time. Skrillex has a knack for making these massive songs that you can at least understand the appeal of, even if you're not a fan, but here's there's little to even grab your attention without making you wanting to drive your own head into a brick wall. Recess even features some high profile and proven collaborators, such as Diplo and Chance the Rapper, and even they bring little to the table here. The penultimate track is OK, but outside of that, there's nothing here I would recommend to anybody. The worst album of he year to date, and everyone else will have to go some way to wrestle that title away from Recess before year's end.