Sure enough, Recess begins with a dubstep banger called "All Is Fair In Love And Brostep." Loaded with ten-ton drums and screeching basslines, this one isn't going to win over any new fans. The song features jungle vets The Ragga Twins, who also appear on the considerably more bouncy "Ragga Bomb," reflecting Moore's increasing street cred and his growing love for dancehall—even if his idea of the genre is more rigid and aggressive than most. Stylistic deviations like this define the album more than its dubstep trappings. The drops on the title track are loose and percussive rather than suffocating, while "Try It Out" approximates Rustie (albeit with dentist drill basslines) and the Diplo-assisted "Dirty Vibe" comes packed with guest verses from K-Pop stars G-Dragon and CL (of 2NE1 fame).
Moore's old habit of dropping mini-atom bombs in his songs is largely reined in on Recess—the pretty ballad "Stranger," for instance, pulls back just when you think it's about to explode. Where that one simmers, "Ease My Mind" stays at full boiling point without bubbling over. "Coast Is Clear," a collaboration with rising MC Chance The Rapper, is built on a gentle synth funk track with nary a wobble in sight.
But these better impressions are the result of low expectations more than anything else. It's tempting to praise Moore for showing restraint with something like "Coast Is Clear," but even that one is just sloppy, with a drum track that feels out of sync with the vocal. The album is most lackluster in its second half, weighed down by tracks like the generic "Doompy Poomp" and the bizarre "Fuck That," which sounds like a cartoonish Addison Groove. Even in its best moments, Recess is still pulpy pop fodder aimed at festivals and radio play, with drums over-compressed to hell and and a tendency to revert back to lowest-common-denominator sounds and ideas. And even at its biggest, it sounds disappointingly thin. For someone who performs inside a gigantic glowing spaceship, that's a problem.
Moore ends the album with the somber UK garage of "Fade Away," a spiritual sequel to last year's "Leaving," which was widely criticized as a Burial rip-off. It's a little transparent, but it's nice to hear him veer away from the overdriven feel of the rest of Recess. With an ear for cotton-candy hooks and an impressive sense of ambition, Skrillex has potential to do something great. Judging from Recess, however, he's still got a long way to go.
Tue / 18 Mar 2014
01. All Is Fair In Love And Brostep feat. Ragga Twins
02. Recess feat. Kill The Noise, Fatman Scoop and Michael Angelakos
03. Stranger feat. KillaGraham from Milo and Otis and Sam Dew
04. Try It Out (Neon Mix) feat. Alvin Risk
05. Coast Is Clear feat. Chance The Rapper and The Social Experiment
06. Dirty Vibe feat. Diplo, G-Dragon from Big Bang and CL from 2NE1
07. Ragga Bomb feat. Ragga Twins
08. Doompy Poomp
09. Fuck That
10. Ease My Mind with Niki & The Dove
11. Fire Away with Kid Harpoon