Skrillex – “Recess”

(Photo Credit: soundisstyle.com)

Grade: C

Key Tracks: “Try It Out” “Dirty Vibe”

Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.

Alright, that’s a slogan for a kid’s toy, but it kind of applies here too. “Recess,” Skrillex’s first official full-length (long delayed after all his work was stolen a few years back), has all the wobbles, but it never falls – there’s no bass drops. The EDM/dubstep mastermind practically invented a new form of music on his ubiquitous EP’s, but he levels out here and settles for more commercial dance music. Sometimes it works, usually it doesn’t. Too many songs on “Recess” fall victim to repetition, and could really benefit from some insanity.

“C,” in grade school terms, comes out to “average.” This is a very average album. The songs are catchy, easy to dance to, and forgotten the second they end. And it’s a shame, because Skrillex, aka former From First to Last singer Sonny Moore, was the leader of an EDM revolution only three years ago. “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” won Best Dance Recording at the Grammy’s, despite being one of the most chaotic releases of the year (and despite the voters of the Grammy’s not wanting to know what drugs their (grand)children were taking to his music). But this album feels safe, like a step back. It’s understandable to think that a full album version of the head-pounding and riot-ensuing music on his EP’s would cause seizures, but there’s a common ground that is almost never found.

There’s really only two great songs on the album – “Try It Out” and “Dirty Vibe.” The former is the leadoff single, and it’s a bridge between standard dance music and the typical Skrillex chaos. It resembles what dubstep has become – high pitches, inexplicably dancy, and shrill, just to the point of annoyance. The latter is the only song that tips on the side of chaos, maybe because of a Diplo guest spot. It’s the only song reminiscent of old Skrillex. It’s also worth noting two other great guest spots – Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos on the otherwise overlong and forgettable title track, and Chance the Rapper on “Coast Is Clear,” one of the more decent tracks.

Although “Recess” is a wholly listenable album, it is disappointing. Skrillex seems to have fallen victim to his own creations. It’s entirely possible that his early releases set a bar too high, one that, if matched again, would only induce violence. It’s also possible that Skrillex wanted to make a more conventional, dance club record. Either way, it’s a turn in a different direction, and one that his fans may not be overly excited to grasp for. Songs from this album – especially single “Try It Out” – will surely be played in clubs. But there isn’t much more here. “Recess” gets a little boring, and it becomes kind of a chore to finish each song. Fans of dance music in general might enjoy the album, but fans honed in more on Skrillex might not feel the same.

-By Andrew McNally

Disclosure – “Settle”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “When A Fire Starts to Burn,” “F For You”

A debut from a European dance band coming only weeks after Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” burned up the charts might not seem like a good decision. It worked. Perhaps it was unintentional, but Disclosure might be on to something. The British duo – two brothers of ages 21 and 18 – have perfected an album harking back to dance music of the 90’s, not unlike the aforementioned French duo. Americanized house and dance music (the abrasively loud forms of EDM and dubstep I embraced in college) is still very popular, but has a definite expiration date, and that date might be coming soon. As “Get Lucky” climbs the charts, Boards of Canada release a comeback and Disclosure release a well-anticipated debut on the same day, all signaling a potential return to more controlled forms of dance music.

There is really nothing new on this record. It greatly succeeds, however, as an exploration and combination of many different forms of dance and house music. The combined opening tracks of “Intro” and “When A Fire Starts to Burn” present an almost Prodigy-type of heavy, hip-hop influenced type of electronica. This doesn’t stick around, as the album shifts through various volumes and tempos, and with a whole and welcomed line-up of up-and-coming British singers.

“Settle” is, at its core, exactly what it wants to be, and that is an effective dance record. It even flows well as an album, something nearly every dance band seems to struggle with. It might be very long, but if it’s put on at a party, that will no longer be a complaint. The beats are cooled and controlled, with little invention going on. In a world now filled with Skrillexs and Diplos, that might be just what we need.

-By Andrew McNally