Skrillex, ‘Recess’ – Track-By-Track First Listen

Humdrum Tuesdays the world over have been shattered by Skrillex’s album drop today. On March 7, Skrillex announced an app featuring a countdown clock and a retro alien game. Last night tracks were released every 30 minutes until the full-length album spawned forth. Amazingly, it’s his first proper album since stepping out as a solo artist from post-hardcore band From First To Last in 2008. 11 EPs, various film soundtracks and collaborations, hundreds of notoriously high-energy live shows, six Grammys and millions of dollars later, Sonny Moore presents ‘Recess’, his first fully-formed, long-form piece of work. It’s galactic, explosive and slam-bang, but there’s a ton of sonic surprises too.


‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’ with Ragga Twins


‘Recess’ opens with a spoken-word old-school broadcasting voice: “To get a 1,000 miles from the earth a rocket would need this much power. It would take far more than a human lifetime but a space station might sound look like this.” And if any track’s going to propel a rocket into space, it’s ‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’. This is Skrillex doing what he does best. Fuelled by insistent mid-range high-frequency bass and beats that’ve become his signature sound, the track skates and rises on dynamics, cut down to size with pauses of chuckles and samples before being revved up again. Weirdly, it features Ragga Twins, who were massive in the 90s jungle scene when Moore was a baby – an homage to his heritage perhaps? Ragga Twins are Deman Rockers and Flinty Badman who hail from Hackney and rose to prominence with breaks group Aquasky and on various drum ‘n’ bass labels. The title of the track, meanwhile, suggests Skrillex doesn’t take his ‘brostep’ reputation too seriously. Would he identify himself with the term otherwise known as ‘horny raw dong music’? Probably not. And where’s that all important first drop? 0:28


‘Recess’ with Kill The Noise, Fatman Scoop and Michael Angelakos

What do you get when you combine Fatman Scoop, Michael Angelakos from Passion Pit and reggaeton? The sunniest, poppiest jam on the album. Skrillex juggles all sorts of sounds on this track, veering and skittering schizophrenically from a melodic chorus to percussive madness and Scoop’s pumped-up vocals, sampled from ‘Turn It Up’ and ‘Put Your Hands Up’. It’s not clear which part Angelakos contributed to the track but I’ll wager it’s the horn-based instrumentals. Frequent Skrillex (and Korn) collaborator Kill The Noise (Jake Stanczak) also appears.

‘Stranger’ with KillaGraham from Milo and Otis and Sam Dew

‘Stranger’ kicks off with tropical bongo vibe, harmonic synths and percussion that sounds like rattlesnakes and woodpeckers. Starting off relatively lo-fi with mellifluous vocals from Sam Dew, it explodes into a massive chorus winding like a snake charmed by a futuristic pungi. You might recognise Dew’s voice from Wale’s massive 2013 hit ‘LoveHate Thing’. KillaGraham also features (and, let’s be honest, if you’re a dubstep producer called Graham you’re going to have to put Killa somewhere in your name.) He’s a dubstep producer based in LA – check out the feisty ‘Clowns‘ – endorsed by UK-based electronic brand UKF.


‘Try It Out (Neon Mix)’ with Alvin Risk

This one’s been around for a while and it’s the lead single from ‘Recess’. A grainy tuned-down vocal repeats the mantra “I’mma try it out over tinkling synths before tuned-up cartoon-like vocals carry a line of melody. A jagged drop splices through flamboyantly as the track circles around repeated climaxes. Washington-based producer and Moombahton-peddler Alvin Risk gives Skrillers a helping hand.

‘Coast Is Clear’ with Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment

Jazzy hotel-lobby piano! Chance The Rapper’s soulful vocals! Brassy synths! D’n’B! ‘Coast Is Clear’ is a bit of a departure. But then one of the things that makes Skrillex so startling is his ability to transition between genres. He jumped from emo-rock to electro nu-dubstep in his early 20s to become one of the most successful electronic producers of the 21st century, so it’s no surprise he’s going to try out other sounds and shades. “What’s your interests? Can you keep a secret? I don’t really give a fuck! What I need to know is do you want to fuck? Do you want to fuck? Do you want to fuck?” sings Chance. Who said romance was dead?


‘Dirty Vibe’ with Diplo, G-Dragon from Big Bang and CL from 2NE1

Strong representation from the K-Pop community in ‘Dirty Vibe’. Skrillex enlists two of the most talented and significant auteurs: G-Dragon, of Big Bang, CL from 2NE1. It’s a return to luxurious maximalism underlined by Diplo’s rapid-fire cutting, scratching and looping that makes the rhythm sound like accelerated popping bubble wrap. The album was recorded in cities over the world including Seoul, South Korea. At one point a trap/trip part that recalls A$AP Mob appears before being swept away into an acidic storm.


‘Ragga Bomb’ with Ragga Twins

Skrillex references his electronic heritage once again with another guest spot from Ragga Twins, who provide scuzzed up vocals over and insectival synths. It’s a grimy, muscular banger made to be heard at 5am at Reading Festival when people are starting to lose their minds. “Murrrrddaaa”

‘Doompy Poomp’

Redditors dug out ‘Doompy Poomp’ last summer but now you can hear it in all its doompy poompy glory. But what exactly is a Doompy Poomp? According to Urban Dictionary, ‘poomp’ is “the noise a Mario Kart makes when it lands from a jump”. A new insult? Skrillex’s self-made term for his genre of music? Anyway it’s a crunchy, warped track with a boing that sounds like Tigger but is surely from Mario. There’s an 80s, Malibu beach vibe to the instrumental with the sound of straws being sucked.

Fuck That

Sirens rise like a spreading infection, a man’s voiced is sucked on itself, and then? Electro-pop rhythms with sawing, resonant synths. It’s another example of Skrillex’s enormous palette and it’s perfect for anyone like me with a relatively short attention span; there’s always something new to listen to. Again, it’s a zesty head-banger but this time there’s a current of menace and melancholy. After a meander or 10 it lands in a solid dubstep breakdown.


Ease My Mind with Niki & The Dove

The penultimate track and possible most WTF moment of the record is this version of Swedish duo Niki & The Dove’s ‘DJ, Ease My Mind’. As well as Los Angeles, Seattle, London, San Francisco and Brooklyn, ‘Recess’ was also recorded in Stockholm, which we guess is where they hooked up. The beginning of the reworked track is similar to the original with pulsing synth tremors replaced with rhythmic pants. The chorus carries the tenderness of Niki & The Dove’s musicality and the emotive key changes, but soon sends it cartwheeling into space.

‘Fire Away’ with Kid Harpoon

Skrillex closes his debut album with a relatively muted, atmospheric come-down track featuring XL/Young Turks signee Kid Harpoon. The Kent songwriter released his debut album ‘Once’ in 2009 and also has significant songwriting credits to his name (he was nominated for an Ivor Novello for Florence + the Machine’s ‘Shake It Out’). There are samples that recall the natural world and high-pitched key synths dotted around like constellations. “Take me with you when you go / Don’t leave me out here on my own / Take me with you when you go / Fire away, fuck this place that we call home,” sings Kid Harpoon over sparkling D’n’B beats. It’s a surprisingly restrained moment compared with the rest of the album but underline a key theme of the album: Skrillex’s sleeves are full of tricks.

Read an interview with Skrillex on tomorrow