In the rapidly escalating battle for dubstep’s soul, nobody is packing more firepower than Skrillex, the 24-year-old producer behind one of the heaviest, gaudiest, and hottest-selling mutations of the London-born electronic genre. Born Sonny Moore, and formerly the teenage singer of the screamo band From First to Last, Skrillex now makes headbanging music for the bottle-service set—whirring, whiplashing clatter that plays like a Transformers battle sequence. It’s shrill but effective, obnoxiously catchy in its own way, and Skrillex isn’t shy about giving his fans exactly what they want: bass drops by the shovelful. No other big-name producer is more generous with the throbbing, blown-out bass that, to the frustration of bedroom dubstep purists, has come to define the genre.
That wobble bass is Skrillex’s hyper-modern signature, but the producer also draws heavily from the past incarnations of rave music, cribbing the sharpest sounds of digital hardcore, drill ’n’ bass, and big-beat acts like Prodigy and Aphex Twin. If it was once in regular rotation on MTV’s Amp, Skrillex has probably appropriated it and made it screechier.
On his fourth EP, Bangarang, Moore broadens his already busy canvas even further. His most satisfying departure is “Summit,” an effective piece of electro-pop that tempers his usual assault, conveying high drama without superfluous aggression. “Kyoto,” however, is a sub-Travis Barker stab at rap-rock, and “Breakn’ A Sweat” is pure, unintentional kitsch, a squawky collaboration with the remaining members of The Doors that isn’t nearly as funky as either party seems to believe. Skrillex is a more skillful producer than his detractors give him credit for, and so creatively restless that he could surprise them one day. But Bangarang is the work of an entertainer still insecure in his ability to hold his audience’s attention without resorting to loud gimmicks.