Skrillex: A DJ Hero

The name of 23-year-old Skrillex first hit my ears from the mouth of my 16-year-old sister, which is probably the reason it went in one and out the other.

“But he’s God!”

Well, there’s another.

Then I happened upon a ukulele cover on YouTube of the popular track “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” from the L.A-based producer, whose legal name is Sonny Moore, and was reeled in.

Skrillex is the common law King of Dubstep music, techno’s transgender kid brother. The genre is defined by its altered synthesizers, multi-layered electronic instrumentals and a level of bass sound all but unknown to most other forms of trendy dance music. With his latest EP, Bangarang, Skrillex takes that definition and rewrites it, proving once more his reign over the music as a whole.

At a mere seven tracks in length and running time of just over half an hour, Bangarang is a ninja kick in the pants: in and out before you realize you’ve even been hit. The album features such artists as British singer Ellie Goulding, Wolfgang Gartner and a special appearance by The Doors, on the electro-hippie track “Break’n A Sweat.”

Bangarang is all about instrumental genre-mixing, something Skrillex has already perfected. On “Right on Time”, he collaborates with another figure of Dubstep royalty, 12th Planet, to create a track that moves from heavy techno to pseudo-house and then to hip-hop in a little over four minutes. On “Kyoto”, L.A raptress Sirah lends a grungy verse to a Rave beat that flirts with bits of Bollywood melody, guitar riffs, 808 kicks and robot vocal excerpts.

The young DJ mastermind that is Skrillex hails from a previous hardcore band called From First to Last, for whom he sang (or, rather, screamed) vocals for two albums. Upon listening to his current work, the elements of hardcore music are a clear influence, as intense vocals and guitars are replaced with manic digital instrumentation, particularly on tracks like the album’s opener, “Right In,” and the one that shares the EP’s title. That heavy emotion translates to a distinct, raw sound, one which can be lost to some unaccustomed to it.

When I came singing the praises of this album to one of my coworkers recently, I was about as surprised as my sister must have been when she told me: “I like to listen to real music.” For hipsters, square dancers and Billy Joel fans, Dubstep won’t make much sense: computer-generated sounds set to a standard pop music tempo. There are no great epiphanies, no witty lyrics, no “real” emotion therein. But when Bangarang comes blasting through the ceilings at the Lizard Lounge, or through the earbuds on my iPod, I get a warm rush, and sometimes that’s all we want our music to give us.

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