January 24, 2012

Test Spin: Skrillex

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Did a dog just bark outside? Is there a child screaming next door? Is your computer malfunctioning? No, you’ve just downloaded Skrillex’s new EP, Bangarang and forgot you were listening to dubstep, glitch music, post-hardcore, brostep or whatever new genre’s been recently tacked onto producer and front man Sonny Moore. Your friend probably just showed you the YouTube video of that sick Christmas light show set to “First of the Year (Equinox),” whetting your appetite for some even more bass-heavy wompage. Skrillex is evolving from the Americanized dubstep that has made him a current figurehead of electronic music. Many of the vestiges from his days as guitarist in a screamo band are not as prominent. In place, Moombahton overtones, glitch music and elements of trance have become more distinct.  Yet Sonny’s departure from the music that has recently earned him five Grammy nods can be questioned.

Skrillex brings us “Right In” with his opening track, the only solo work on his EP. This one’s alive. The song has enough skittering riffage and rhythmic manipulation to make James Blake sob. A heavy drop followed by siren-like wobbles makes this one of the more potent tracks of the album.  Unfortunately, “Bangarang,” which most true fans would consider old news by now, remains the highlight of the album.  The disco-pulsed track closes in a flourish of funkiness: “I’m eatin’ Fun Dip right now, not givin’ a fuck.”

These songs are both misleading openers for the EP. As the short EP continues, Skrillex’s typical modus operandi, high-pitched hamster voices and unhinged drops, seems to disappear. “Breakn’ a Sweat,” a slow tempo, Latin jazz mash-up featuring The Doors (or the remaining members, anyway), is completely unique. What makes this awkward collaboration even more unsettling is its supposed influence. “Breakn’ a Sweat” is somehow a reworking of the Miles Davis jazz classic, “Milestones.” Despite this misstep, the track is an admirable representation of cross-generational music, a style befitting the upcoming documentary it was made for, Re:Generation. In a strikingly bold move, the song includes a vintage sound clip of Jim Morrison’s thoughts on the future of electronic music.

“Devil’s Den,” featuring house music producer Wolfgang Gartner, fuses Skrillex with electro-house. The opening guitar riffs seem incongruous with the high-pitched, extremely drawn out drop in the middle of the song. “Right on Time,” featuring Kill the Noise and 12th Planet, sounds more like a sped up, then slowed down, Dillon Francis creation upon first listen.

Skrillex makes a better job of integrating his typical drops and synths in “Kyoto.” He puts a hip-hop spin on the beats and throws in female rapper Sirah to finish this rousing number. “Summit” is a bit of a let down given its inclusion of the frequently remixed Ellie Goulding. The mellow track contains broken up, syncopated female vocals, leading only to a short line sung by Goulding, making surprisingly sparse use of her stunning voice.

Most of these songs completely dispel Skrillex’s past use of melodic piano and synthesized strings, or any tinkering of melody, for that matter. The instrumentals he once utilized to create stark contrasts have been instead replaced by more varied dance music influences. Moreover, while the intensity of the songs is comparable to that of his older hits, Bangarang’s tracks are not nearly as infectious.

Hopefully Sonny has a lot more in store for us in his first studio album, Voltage, due out early this year. As we know, every crazy drop has its buildup. Here’s hoping his album drop is more satisfying than he’s letting on in this lukewarm EP.

Original Author: Martha Wydysh

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