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Skrillex’s ‘Quest For Fire’: 5 Essential Tracks

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Let’s start by taking a moment to consider the landscape in 2014. EDM was EDM-ing hard as DJs became the new rock stars, made insane bags, pulled in giant crowds and took over top 40 in a way never before seen or heard in the U.S.

It was a wild, heady, thrilling and often extremely silly figureheads. With his fantastically aggressive, machinistic dubstep, the SoCal-based producer pushed forward the sound of electronic music at large with a style dismissed by many Serious Cultural Critics as “brostep,” but which nonetheless thrilled thousands of kids in the pits at his shows along with many cultural gatekeepers. Skrillex won three Grammys (and earned a best new artist nomination) in 2012, as he achieved global fame during an apex period punctuated by the release of his 2014 debut album, Recess, his only full-length to date.

Until today! Riding a tsunami of hype with a steady stream of single releases, Skrillex’s sophomore album, Quest For Fire, was unveiled on Friday (Feb. 17) via his own longstanding label OWSLA and Atlantic Records. Certainly much attention gets paid to the EDM veterans dropping albums amidst this new era of electronic music, with mixed reactions to last year’s albums by Calvin Harris and Swedish House Mafia, who have both changed their sounds significantly since the boom days.

But with Quest For Fire, Skrillex eschews overt reinvention. Instead, he presents music clearly made from the same DNA as his older stuff, but which has grown and evolved in the same way the scene has, and we have, and Skrillex — now 35 — has. (The album overtly references the earlier days, with opener “Leave Me Like This” sampling the iconic “OH MY GOD” from 2011’s “First Of The Year” and the 48-second “Warped Tour 05 With Pete Wentz” composed of a recording of Skrillex, then known as First To Last Singer Sonny Moore, doing a backstage interview with Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz.)

But while Quest For Fire nods to the past, it’s ultimately ultra-fresh, highlighting the impeccable sound design that Skrillex has always been a master of, while embracing and expanding his bass origins. The album incorporates D’n’B, grime, IDM and hip-hop in ways that are inventive, artful, emotional and often just plain hyphy fun. (To wit, five of the album’s previously released singles are currently on Hot Dance/Electronic Songs.)

At 15 tracks, the album is weighty but without filler, incorporating a party’s worth of collaborators including Missy Elliott, Aluna, Fred Again.., Porter Robinson, Starrah, Noisia, Four Tet, Mr. Oizo, PEEKABOO, Kito and more. It seems reasonable to anticipate that many of them will be in attendance on Saturday night (Feb. 18) when Skrillex celebrates the album release with a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.

In the meantime, here are five essential, previously unreleased tracks from Quest For Fire.

“RATATA” Feat. Missy Elliott & Mr. Oizo

Skrillex and Missy Elliott have crossed paths before (see the Missy remix of Jack Ü’s “Take Ü There“), but here, Skrillex builds a bridge between their two catalogs with a spare update of Elliott’s all-time hit “Work It.” Skrillex goes wild with “this the kind of beat that goes ra-ta-ta” from that 2002 track, isolating that moment and expanding it, with Elliott’s voice spread out all over spare, plucky percussion while she delivers brand-new flows at a rapid-fire pace. The track is a co-production with French legend Mr. Oizo, one of many genre-spanning icons contributing to the star-studded LP.

“Tears” Feat. Joker & Sleepnet

A bass track that favors brooding waves of synth and galactic laser sounds over hitting listeners over the heads with bricks of low end, “Tears” is a richly complex collaboration with British dubstep star Joker and Sleepnet, the new project from Noisia’s Nik Roos. The brooding track ends with a spare skittering that segues immediately into the similarly vibed “Rumble.”

“Inhale Exale” Feat. Aluna & Kito

Skrillex and Australian producer Kito take the iconic voice of Aluna and chop it to bits so that her directive to “inhale, exhale” sounds like a fight for life. An ambulance siren punctuates the production, and she then declares, “too high, gotta come down” while passing thunderclouds of low end add an ominous feel.

“Hydrate” Feat. Flowdan, BEAM & PEEKABOO

UK grime MC Flowdan had a breakout moment on Quest For Fire‘s lead single “Rumble,” and here he gets even more screen time, entering with massive swagger and declaring with a growley flow that “it’s simple, not complicated, so when it’s hot, just stay hydrated.” Flowdan’s entrance on the track marks an ominous turn after the song starts with Jamaican-American singer/rapper Beam brightly singing about “life abundance.” The tough, deliciously womp-ey track is a collaboration with longstanding bass producer PEEKABOO, who gets more of the spotlight he’s always deserved.

“Still Here (with the ones that I came with)” Feat. Porter Robinson and Bibi Bourelly

Arguably the mission statement of the entire project, “Sitll Here” finds Skrillex, Porter Robinson and Bibi Bourelly ending the album with sweetness and buoyancy via an homage to riding with the same crew now that you have for all these years. (And if you remember that iconic photo of Skrillex, Robinson and Zedd from the heyday, you know the track’s sentiment is very much true.) With bright, emotive production that sounds like it’s been touched by fellow Quest For Fire collaborator Fred again.., Bourelly sings the song’s title on a loop — a declaration that feels like a victory that’s perhaps a bit hard-won but ultimately euphoric, like the best moments in life.

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