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EDM star Skrillex’s surprise LP might be better than you expected

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Recess time: Skrillex dropped his first album through his app.
Matt Sayles, Invision/AP

Three stars

Skrillex Recess

You hate him, you really hate him. You despise Skrillex’s serrated wubs, his over-processed synths, his big-room ADHDM, his fans, his hair, etc. Well, detractors won’t find an easy entry point into Skrill’s first full-length album, Recess—initially released not on Beatport or via midnight sale at your local brick and mortar, but through his app, the latest major label artist to spring a new record onto fans.

For one, most of the 11 tracks here double down on the mechanical whirring, trilling, skittering and squalling; “Try It Out” sounds like the producer/DJ hooked his sequencer to an overzealous power tool. Two, those who thought Skrillex would stop the drop, especially after his recent house-like dalliances, will grimace at how he carpet-bombs the album with them. And the technical prowess and sonic pastiching he exhibits here can’t help him craft a crossover anthem a la “Bangarang” or “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.” The closest he gets is the title track, which still sounds like a Crystal Method chestnut.

That said, Skrillex’s bass aesthetic often breaks hard left for various tangents and impulses. Reggae is a giant influence throughout Recess (credit collaborations with fellow EDM icon Diplo and jungle pioneers Ragga Twins). And his flirtations with less aggressive, more relaxed soundscapes—the James Blake-like “Stranger,” the almost garage-like “Coast Is Clear” (with Chance The Rapper), the ambient comedown closer “Fire Away”—feel like palate cleansers and hint at new directions to further explore later. Ol’ Sonny won’t win you antagonists over, but he just might surprise you.

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