ALBUM REVIEW: Kaskade, Atmosphere
Posted by Gosia Mrugala
It’s been two years since the release of Kaskade‘s career-defining Fire & Ice, so the anticipation for his follow-up, as you can imagine, has been at fever pitch. Now the wait is over: Atmosphere dropped September 10 on Ultra Records. And the verdict is … well, read on and see. Here’s the track-by-track rundown:
(1) Last Chance: OK, here we go. The drop at the 1:45 mark doesn’t really wow me, to be honest. There’s nothing unexpected about it. The vocals mesh nicely with the music, but the lyrics — usually a cut above on Kaskade’s records — tend to the repetitive and lack any real flow. All in all, it’s a weirdly unimpressive choice for an album opener — one that made me impatient to move on to the next track. A bad omen? Let’s see what’s next before jumping to conclusions.
(2) Why Ask Why – Personally, I would have made this the album opener. It’s got the euphoric energy of Kaskade’s best tracks, and the intriguing lyrics (“Love has the time to change your mind”; “I’ll soon be far away — you can watch me go”) have a “classic trance” feel to them. For the casual listener, this is the place to start.
(3) MIA to LAS – Um, what? As confusing as its title, this track means to summon the mood of a journey from Miami to Las Vegas — but mostly what it evokes is the beginnings of a migraine. Can’t say I made it all the way through this one. Next!
(4) No One Knows Who We Are (Kaskade’s Atmosphere Mix) – Better. A tranquil beginning, similar to “Why Ask Why,” as a soothing piano melody ripples below and the vocals by Canadian chanteuse Lights dance across the surface. (Gotta say: Kaskade has a knack for choosing the voice that compliments at tune.) As someone with a passion for classical piano, I heart this track to pieces. But Atmosphere‘s frequent shifts in tone are, frankly, a bit bewildering. It’s very … well, let’s just say diverse.
(5) Feeling The Night – And then: a monster anthem. (The title is self-explanatory.) It’s your basic floor-filler, precision-engineered to be played at big festivals like VELD and UMF and to send the crowd into a dancing frenzy. It would be almost uncharitable to point out that, not unlike “Last Chance,” it’s just a wee bit predictable.
(6) Take Your Mind Off – This is one to play when you need to calm your mind and body after a stressful day. Clamp on the headphones, clear away the distractions, lie back and listen. Just you and the music.
(7) LAX to JFK – I like to try to visualize what an artist is thinking when they conceive a track. In this case, I got the mental image of a commute to the airport, followed by a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New York. More intriguing than compelling, but it has enough of a kick to make me press repeat.
(8) Atmosphere – Again with the classical influences. Personally, I’m a sucker for a piano, so this track — the album’s first single — pulled me in right away. The lyrics are the most autobiographical he’s ever written, as Kaskade (a.k.a. Ryan Raddon) draws us into his life and gives us a glimpse of his younger self: “with visions of worlds that were all my own.” Judging by the sonic evidence here, those visions must have been pretty awe-inspiring. Easter egg time: Guess who’s singing the vocals on this track?
(9) Missing You – More stylistic mix-and-match, as Kaskade teams up with indie rockers School of Seven Bells on this alluring track. Whoever the lyrics were written for, I hope that person realizes just how special they must be.
(10) Something Something – The indie feel continues here, and I’m sold on it — enough, anyway, to press repeat several times. The lyrics sound like a continuation of “Missing You,” making me think that Kaskade is really trying to send a message to someone with this album. I hope it reaches the intended recipient, because I’m not sure — what with all of Atmosphere‘s restless genre-hopping — that Kaskade’s fans are going to have the patience to try to figure it out.
(11) SFO to ORD – A suitably funky house sound for a track meant to evoke a journey from San Francisco to Chicago. Could’ve used some soulful vocals, though.
(12) Floating – And we’re back in “Take Your Mind Off” territory, with another relaxing chill-out track. Maybe too relaxing: I was fighting to stay awake at this point. It’s Kaskade’s EDM lullaby.
(13) How Is It – And finally, this. Soothing, mellifluous, with stunning vocals by Debra Fotheringham. Atmosphere may be a work of decided highs and lows, but to Kaskade’s credit, it ends strongly.