It’s been a long time since the heyday of Skrillex (AKA Sonny Moore) over a decade ago. Equally adoured and derided for his mainstream-ification of dubstep for the masses, Skrillex is a household name. While a younger version of myself would have dismissed his music with some kind of joke about dial-up modems fornicating, I found myself intrigued by his latest releases: Quest For Fire and Don’t Get Too Close.
Released one day apart, it’s hard to talk about one of these albums without referencing the other. However, it’s Don’t Get Too Close, with its edgy, lovably dorky anime hedgehog on the cover, that got my attention. Skrillex has made a complete departure from the sound that made him famous, dropping the blown out bass, massive drops, and aggressive synths in favour of something more akin to dissociative dream house.
The feature list across these two projects is immense, with the guests on Don’t Get Too Close being particularly effective. Highlights include “Ceremony” (ft. Yung Lean and Bladee) with its ominous data-heist beat from the future, evocative emo rap jam “Summertime” (ft. Kid Cudi), and “Bad For Me” (ft. Corbin and Chief Keef) with its zoned out, yet oddly optimistic vibe.
Not every song on this album is an experiment—some are clearly manufactured with chart-ability in mind. “Don’t Go” (ft. Justin Bieber and Don Toliver) is a well-crafted, brilliantly produced pop song in which Bieber predictably sings about how much he loves his wife, against fluffy acoustic riffs and whistling samples—inoffensive, forgettable, but also forgivable when stacked with the album’s many moments of unabashed weirdness.
A farcry from the club bangers and face melters of Skrillex circa 2011, there are moments of raw vulnerability fringing on emo sensibilities towards the album’s tail end. Title track “Don’t Get Too Close” (ft. Bibi Bourelly) features desperate vocals from Sonny himself, joining Bourelly in an emotional duet about loneliness, isolation, and making music in the garage, resonating with the edgy 14-year-old inside us all.
Whether you love or hate the work of Skrillex, Don’t Get Too Close is guaranteed to surprise you. Dreamy, woozy, wounded, this album’s curated performances and sounds guide us through the psyche of Moore himself, a nerdy kid who made it big, grew up, and found himself wondering what to do next. But with the release of Don’t Get Too Close (and its foil of insane dance jams, Quest For Fire), Skrillex has reached for the ‘comeback’ button, and I think it’s working.