The fullest picture yet of the visionary producer’s range—in Spatial Audio
No one could accuse Sonny Moore of being unmotivated in the years following 2014’s Recess—the electronic maverick better-known as Skrillex kept up a seemingly endless stream of singles, remixes, high-profile collabs (Justin Bieber, Travis Scott), and co-signs of rising artists—but the lack of a follow-up album was nevertheless conspicuous. Nine years later, with Quest for Fire, he more than makes up for lost time. At once sprawling yet punchy, the 15-track LP offers the fullest picture yet of the visionary producer’s range.
Skrillex’s fondness for bass is well-represented: Virtually every track is flooded with voluminous low-end frequencies, typically in the form of stonking FM patches that glisten like oil slicks. The opening “Leave Me Like This” rides a wriggly riff straight out of the UK style known simply as bassline; “Tears,” a collaboration with UK producer Joker and Sleepnet, an artist from Noisia’s orbit, pays tribute to old-school South London bass music. Yet dubstep, for all its importance to Skrillex’s origins, is little more than a footnote on Quest for Fire. Stylistically, the album covers lush, melodic garage (“Butterflies,” with Starrah and Four Tet), Middle Eastern club (“XENA,” with Palestinian singer/composer Nai Barghouti), futuristic dancehall (the gargantuan “Rumble,” with Fred again.. and Flowdan), and more. What it all has in common, beyond the seismic undertow, are Skrillex’s filigreed vocal chops and intricate drum programming, which continue to unlock new levels of hyperkinetic energy.
Skrillex has always tended to pack the studio with pals, and Quest for Fire is his most collaborative effort yet, stuffed with names both big and small. Missy Elliott drops new verses (and a clever interpolation of “Work It”) on the hip-house anthem “RATATA.” Rave dreamweaver Porter Robinson and hitmaker Bibi Bourelly add emotional uplift to “Still Here (with the ones that I came with),” a teary-eyed garage banger. The most surprising cameo might come from Eli Keszler, an experimental percussionist better-known for working with avant-garde figures like Laurel Halo. Sometimes, the collaborators help lead Skrillex to some unexpected places: Who knows what kind of alchemy resulted in “TOO BIZARRE (juked),” in which rapper Swae Lee, post-everything producer Siiickbrain, and bass musician Posij come together in an unprecedented fusion of R&B, juke, pop punk, and screamo. Yet no matter who ends up in the booth with Moore, there’s no mistaking who’s behind the boards. Simply put, nobody else sounds like Skrillex, and no matter how far he roams, his sound is always unequivocally his.