Memories of trips to and from swimming lessons, having Bangarang blasting out with an ASDA extra special in the fridge, was a wonderful feeling. Skrillex lingers on the heart far too much for an artist whose time at the top was shunted off as the generation that grew up listening to his dub style moved away. Quest for Fire pushes for a massive change of pace to those glitchy intimacies. Instead, Skrillex maintains a hype and bounce-ready infusion of electronic repetition that would not be out of place in all those clubs Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites would be laughed out of. That is the point, that is the appeal. Quest for Fire is not a shock because nobody expected a quality release from Skrillex, but because he takes EDM expectations and lays them out next to UK garage and trap themes.
Skrillex is not ashamed of his preceding music releases, nor should he be, sampling those early EPs builds a respectful nod to the past and in turn presents something new. Any artist who can convincingly nab a voice note from The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, is clearly having the time of his life. Quest for Fire is well-meaning and infectiously enjoyable in places. Tears may hold Joker & Sleepnet to ransom, but the real hero is Na’vi. Well, Skrillex too. He takes the time to experiment and leans into sharp electronic textures as much as he can. Butterflies has a constant beat to it and there is enough scope throughout this album to make each track sound just that extra bit different. That is crucial. Risk over reward comes through for Quest for Fire. Yet some of the changes, the barbaric opening of Inhale Exhale, for instance, are alarmingly sloppy.
Paired with A Street I Know and the tone shifts. Quest for Fire finds and kindles that passion for creating in those early moments but Skrillex starts to lean into lazy conventions. Eli Keszler has her vocals pumped full of electronics. Not every track can be a success but the deep dive into a slate of genres, from the Arabic jazz of XENA to the glitchy intentions of TOO BIZARRE, which is exactly what it says on the tin. Skrillex presents himself to every available genre. He comes across as a conductor, rather than a conduit for creation. Mixing away the work of others, the collaborative reliance of EDM and the interjections added in the studio, become the Skrillex style. Hyrdate is a mixed bag but a great representation of Quest for Fire as a whole. Cluttered yet interesting.
Appeal lies in the constant electronic beat. Skrillex has a consistency not in what he implements but in what he hopes to provide through collaboration. Cluttered workings from the man that offered up Bangarang prove decent, but buckle up for that second half, the collaborations not flowing as smooth and free as they could. Regardless, Skrillex has put down detractors and proved he has more than a few tricks and mixes in his arsenal. He does. Skrillex does not deploy them as much as he should, and the slow bleed of well-formed tracks begins to dwindle. Plodding on in those final few songs reveals Skrillex as an artist who has a good set in him, ideas and interesting expectations of himself and his collaborators. Quest for Fire wraps its adventure up prematurely, not with a bang, but with a Porter Robinson collaboration.