Ever since he ditched his debut emo rock project From First To Last for a solo career in 2007, Sonny John Moore has made an undeniable impact on the electronic music landscape as Skrillex, delivering a brand of hardcore electro dance that has shaped recent crazes like Dubstep while also delivering him major commercial and chart success. The genre that Skrillex belongs to is a polarizing one indeed, but if any name has been consistently referenced within it over the past 5 years it's no doubt been Moore's, and so after multiple hit singles, EP's and six, yes SIX Grammy Awards, it's definitely surprising that Recess is the 26 year old's debut studio album.
For many, Recess will mean nothing more than another unwelcome addition to a thankfully dying niche genre which has already outlived it's remarkably short life, but Skrillex's reputation as the face of Dubstep is sometimes an unfair tag to attribute to the American. For a start, many fans of the genre would throw a fit at seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard, for the same reasons that you could hope Moore is able to outlive the utterly mundane and monotonous ''wait for the drop'' nature of the music- he was always a slightly more appealing, conventional side of true Dubstep. And by true Dubstep, I mean ear destroying, brain melting, boring nonsense.
And yes, there is a large supply of that kind of sludge here, the assumed personality of Skrillex, another DJ who wants no more than to produce a set of empty club bangers, but fascinatingly, there's an entirely different side to the musician which quietly pronounces itself on Recess and sheds a lot of light on the possibility of a real future for Moore in different areas of electronic music.
''Stranger'' is the first track in a very unexpected midsection which introduces a more introspective identity to the album, experimenting with a low key sound that stands in direct contrast to the straightforward club anthems on the album, while ''Try It Out'' lives up to its name by incorporating quite lovely synth touches which lift it above the standard fare. Major highlight ''Coast Is Clear'' utilizes a wonderfully chosen guest appearance by Chance The Rapper on a weird, wonderful track with absolutely zero hint of Skrillex's past persona- it's an insanely catchy pop tune with a hilarious ''Do you wanna fuck?'' refrain that uses an interpolation of ''Big Poppa'' to good effect in the best track on the album bar none. ''Doomy Poomp'' is another curios example of self exploration here and the strangest track in a good way, while closer ''Fire Away'' is another contender for best song, a low key final sound which delves into a deeper side of electronica, promising a far more in depth Moore that could definitely go further.
Alas though, there are not only positives to be had here, and too often Skrillex produces the kind of meaningless drivel that, on the strength of the aforementioned tracks, he should now have outgrown. The title track offers a conventional hook which has led to predicatble chart success, throwing in Fatman Scoop and reusing a similiar vocal of his from the classic club banger ''Be Faithful'', while ''Dirty Vibe'' features Diplo, fresh off the most underwhelming track on Mo's debut, once again showing up for the worst song on the album by some distance. ''Fuck That'' and ''Ease My Mind'' don't even warrant a mention, you've heard them before. The best of a bad bunch is a duo of tracks with Ragga Twins (opener ''All Is Far..'', ''Ragga Bomb'') which are the usual unapologetic electro anthems but there's a sense of fun added with these guests that adds a personality and presence lacking in these usually sub par outings.
Often on Recess though, there are numerous moments which shine brighter than the darkened, oft treaded wayward path of conventional EDM and while it's a strikingly inconsistent record that perhaps just about leans on the negative side, Recess offers a musician who seems far more open to change and progression than before.
On conclusion, it's plain to hear that Skrillex is an interesting DJ who can quite easily surpass the Dubstep conventions that have both given him his success and hindered him on Recess- he doesn't seem quite ready to let go of his baby genre over these 11 tracks and this makes Recess a dwindling, boring experience for the most part that drowns alongside it's beyond average contempotraries, but when he ignores these conventions and explores further sounds it couldn't be more obvious that Skrillex is a more talented figure than Recess would have you believe.
There is a crossroads ahead for Sonny Moore on his next release whatever form it may take- either he can keep swimming with the small fishes and continue respectable but shallow commercial success, or confront his instincts and make something more meaningful, more accomplished and more suited to his ability. Hopefully, strangely, Recess can be a product of transition rather than the final version of Skrillex.
Review by Andrew Lambert | THREE STARS