The EDM-pop superstar’s second album features everyone from Missy Elliott to Four Tet to Pete Wentz, but the real star is the perpetual-motion machine at its center
It’s been nine years since Sonny Moore released Recess, his first album as the EDM mastermind Skrillex, and while Quest for Fire is technically his second album, he’s hardly been away from the spotlight. He’s kept busy, releasing a steady stream of singles and collaborative projects, and producing tracks for chart-toppers like Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, as well as next-wave artists like PinkPantheress. He even reunited with From First to Last, the Warped Tour denizens he fronted at the height of the MySpace era.
Skrillex’s second album arrives as he occupies a fairly singular place within pop — few artists out there could credibly announce a surprise show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Listening to Quest for Fire, though, shows how Skrillex has continuously expanded his sonic palette through his productions, remixes, and other work, particularly when it comes to finding beats. “TOO BIZARRE (juked),” a sped-up revamp of his 2021 Swae Lee and Siiickbrain collab “TOO BIZARRE,” goes into hyperdrive on its julienned chorus, while the thumping collaboration with Palestinian composer Nai Barghouti, “XENA,” is propelled by percussion that sounds like it was a thrill ride even before it made its way to Skrillex’s board.
As with Recess, Skrillex has wrangled a constellation of guest stars for Quest for Fire; the way they move in and out of each song enhances the album’s grab-bag feel. Pop songsmith Starrah (whose co-writing credits include Rihanna’s “Needed Me” and Camila Cabello’s “Havana”) and electro experimentalist Four Tet pop into the DJ booth for the house throwdown “Butterflies”; Missy Elliott salutes her legacy over the buzzin-fly-and-bass beat of “RATATA,” which spins out of a line from her still-futuristic-sounding 2002 single “Work It.” The British grime MC and producer Flowdan offers the most satisfying match for Skrillex’s world-swallowing beats; his low-slung voice towers over the ricocheting rhythm of the Fred again..-assisted “Rumble,” while his quick rhymes provide a counter to Skrillex’s stabbed synths and Beam’s laconic toasting on “Hydrate.”
“This is the culmination of all your hard work … you were living on people’s floors and now here you are,” an excitable reporter yaps to Skrillex — then, Sonny Moore — and Pete Wentz in “Warped Tour ’05,” a found-sound interlude near the end of the album. The joke is that 2005 was barely the beginning for Skrillex, but the same could be said for Quest for Fire; this week he announced that yet another album, Don’t Get Too Close, is on the near horizon, complete with a title track that features Moore on vocals. Like the mosh pits and dance floors that have thrilled to his music over the years, Skrillex knows that perpetual motion is crucial.