Album Reviews

Skrillex – Quest For Fire / Don’t Get Too Close

(OWSLA/Atlantic) UK release date: 17 + 18 February 2023

Lengthy, star-studded and impossibly eclectic, these two new albums paint a picture of a producer who has found his rightful place

Skrillex - Quest For Fire

Skrillex – Quest For Fire

Life comes at you fast, and the fickle hivemind of new music changes even faster. Around the turn of the previous decade Sonny John Moore a.k.a. Skrillex was the controversial, influential artist spearheading a brand new style of electronic music, but by the time he released his debut album in 2014 that style had aged like milk in the hot sun. He became a talented beatmaker in search of a worthy musical cause, equally at home in the credits of #1 hits and the electronic underground. The release of Quest For Fire and Don’t Get Too Close one day apart is an ostentatious demonstration of the ground Moore has covered and the partnerships he’s forged.

The albums are deliberately different in style, with the first LP focusing more on beats and bass while the second is more poppy, but there are threads that unite them. Don’t Leave Me Like This features a earworm hook from Bobby Raps which is given a chunky bass house rework on Leave Me Like This, Beam’s vocal on Selecta is sampled for lead single Rumble, and Bibi Bourelly’s exuberant lyrics on Painting Rainbows find their way onto the Porter Robinson collab Still Here (with the ones that I came with). All together we have nearly 80 minutes worth of music, and the quality of sound design is surprisingly consistent throughout.

Skrillex - Don't Get Too Close

Skrillex – Don’t Get Too Close

Kicking off Quest For Fire, RATATA pays homage to two very different songs: Missy Elliott’s Work It and Mr Oizo’s Positif, with Missy herself bringing the party vibes on the track’s verses. Rumble utilises Flowdan’s yardie flow to phenomenal effect as the former Roll Deep member plays call-and-response with intricate blasts of bass (“yo, listen, you hear that? Killers in the jungle / killers in the jungle, killers in the jungle”), and XENA’s hand-drum chops and techno coda are a display of virtuosity befitting one of the best electronic producers of the modern era. Perhaps some of this record suffers from thin songwriting but the drops, so clearly the main attraction here, are characterful, razor-sharp and banging.

Don’t Get Too Close is shorter and considerably more patchy, its best songs adding up to a great EP. Woman of the hour PinkPantheress coos over super-kawaii DnB on Way Back, Justin Bieber’s falsetto lights up the soulful, guitar-laden Don’t Go and Chief Keef adds his gargly autotune to the otherwise pristine chimes of Bad For Me (“He don’t like that I’m on her ringtone / you can have her back, I ditched her – ding-dong”). However, one of the longest songs on either record is the title track of Don’t Get Too Close, where aimless steel-drum chords meet lyrics that read and sound like one big in-joke, and this completely tanks the project’s momentum. Meanwhile, 3AM’s child vocals get tedious quickly and Mixed Signals with Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee is not nearly developed enough to satisfy.

So by the end of this eclectic, intense experience Skrillex has proven himself to be an inventive and well-rounded producer, but his abilities in the pop world seem more dependent on the songwriting of others. Roughly half of Don’t Get Too Close feels like a wasted opportunity; Skrillex and Diplo’s Jack Ü album was defined by the emotional core of Where Are U Now, and better choices could have similarly elevated this record. But Moore can rest assured – in an industry of blatant trend-hopping and ghost-production he’s solidified his reputation as the real deal, and in doing a bit of everything he’s found his rightful place.

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Skrillex – Quest For Fire / Don’t Get Too Close