And then, out of the blue, a new Skrillex album arrives.
America's king of bass-heavy, dubstep-inspired electronic dance music released his new album, "Recess," for streaming to iTunes on Monday evening after a tease on a smartphone app started unlocking and delivering tracks every half-hour.
The result: Eleven songs that will be available for purchase on March 18 and are currently ready to wake your eardrums with distorted beats. Featuring guests including Chance the Rapper, Niki & the Dove, Passion Pit vocalist Michael Angelakos, Diplo and others, "Recess" was recorded all over the world -- including his studio compound and workspace in Chinatown -- and is the most high-profile Skrillex release since his "Bangarang" came out in 2011. Since then, the artist born Sonny Moore has been touring, producing, dropping singles and EPs, collecting Grammys and, apparently, working on "Recess."
The product of his toil? Eleven maximalist, raw synthetic tracks featuring Skrillex's trademark vocal manipulations and layers upon layers of interwoven rhythmic noise that's as explosive and driven as anything he's ever done. (Caveat: It's 9 a.m., I just woke up and I am listening to this for the first time while finishing the first of three cups of coffee I'll have in the next hour.)
From the start, the artist addresses his critics: The first track is called "All Is Fair in Love and Brostep," referencing the testosterone-fueled EDM subgenre mostly enjoyed by shirtless "bros" looking to scream and let loose. Often used as an insult when describing Skrillex's fans, the track is a beefy incitement, a hard response.
Elsewhere, "Recess" is more nuanced. My fave track so far is "Stranger," a midtempo work that has the feel of acid house circa 1991: squirrelly digital sounds, big handclaps on the second and fourth beats, all coupled with of-the-moment rhythms and bass. The vocals, by KillaGraham, are soulful, filled with a kind of longing that injects emotion into the plasticine thumps.
Chance the Rapper, the young Chicago artist who's one of the most promising rappers working today, contributes verses to "Coast Is Clear." He offers a saucy come-on as a brass section (!) blows chaotic melodies and tries to keep pace with the beat. It's truly strange, and it presents evidence that Skrillex is digging for new combinations without neglecting his basest, most aggressive tendencies.
As he's done previously, Skrillex fills his beats with the sound of British "ragga" music, the incendiary electronic subgenre that mixes Jamaican dancehall and British drum & bass. For "Recess," said toasting is offered courtesy of the Ragga Twins, the influential team who helped define the genre in the early 1990s.
As part of the roll-out, Skrillex also announced that he'd be taking to the road once again. Starting at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week, he'll embark on a series of festival gigs (Winter Music Conference, Ultra Music Festival, Coachella) followed by an American tour. No doubt that schedule will get heavier as summer nears.
March 13-15 -- Austin, Texas -- South by Southwest
March 26-28 -- Miami -- Winter Music Conference
March 30 -- Miami -- Ultra Music Festival (As Jack U)
April 12 -- Indio, Calif. -- Coachella
April 19 -- Indio, Calif. -- Coachella
May 23 -- Oklahoma City -- Zoo Amphitheatre*
May 24 -- Kansas City, Kan. -- Cricket Wireless Amphitheater*
May 26 -- Louisville, Ky. -- Louisville Waterfront Park*
May 27 -- Cleveland -- Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica*
May 28 -- Detroit -- Masonic Temple*
May 30 - Toronto -- TD Echo Beach*
May 31 -- Toronto -- TD Echo Beach #
June 2 -- Rochester, N.Y. -- CMAC Performing Arts Center #
June 3 -- Albany, N.Y. -- Washington Avenue Armory #
June 4 -- Gilford, N.H. -- Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook #
June 7 -- New York -- Governor's Ball
June 8 -- Baltimore -- Pimlico Race Course*
June 9 -- Richmond, Va. -- Brown's Island*
June 13-14 -- Manchester, Tenn. -- Bonnaroo
June 17 -- St. Louis -- Chaifetz Arena*
June 18 -- Omaha, Neb. -- Mid America Center*
June 20 -- Denver -- Red Rock Amphitheatre
June 21 -- Denver -- Red Rock Amphitheatre
June 30 -- Portland, Maine -- Cumberland County Civic Center
* with Dillon Francis, What So Not, Milo & Otis
# with DJ Snake, What So Not, Milo & Otis
You can listen to "Recess" in its entirety at iTunes.
Twitter: @lileditCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun