Let me begin with a note of full disclosure: This reviewer is a self-confessed Kaskade junkie. The man also known as Ryan Raddon has produced some of my favorite house tracks ever, the best of which inspire with their ability to play on your emotions in the most sincere fashion. My obsession began innocently enough with the notable appearances on various Om Records compilations and mix CDs of his early singles "What I Say" and "Gonna Make It," the latter of which gave the first indications of Kaskade's uncanny ability to elicit an emotional response to his music.
But it was the track "It's You It's Me," and his debut artist album of the same name, that forever cemented Ryan's place in my heart, and more importantly catapulted him into the upper echelons of deep house producers. With that track's almost universal appeal, Kaskade seemed to effortlessly wind his thumping deep-house rhythms into his listeners' souls. Melodic backdrops and smooth vocals completed the picture. His recent mix CD for Om Records, San Francisco Sessions vol. 4, showcased further brilliance with tracks like "In This Life," which took the soul-moving formula of "It's You It's Me" and somehow amplified it. My infatuation increased proportionately.
So, you begin to see, the follow-up album, In the Moment, has an awful lot to live up to. I was almost nervous to listen.
And Raddon may well have been nervous in putting this album together. Perhaps knowing it would be near impossible to come up with an entire album of classic house anthems, he opted to spread his musical talents across a couple of different genres, with mixed results. Unfortunately "In This Life" does not appear on this album, apparently licensed instead to Jay Hannan's Society Heights label.
Raddon has a secret weapon up his sleeve, though. The album's opener, "Steppin' Out," is already on all sorts of fave lists for the year. It was voted the #1 single at electronic music's Mecca, the Winter Music Conference. This is the album's most spine-tingling moment. Acoustic guitar riffs pluck your heartstrings over one of Kaskade's trademark 4/4 beats. The male vocal is a little gruffer than you usually find on house records, but this makes a refreshing change as he delivers his ode to the magic of the dance floor.
As you'd expect, it is the classy house jams like these that comprise In the
Moment's highlight reel. "I Like the Way" is a tech-edged track that features
the vocals of fellow DJ/producer/artist Collette, although she doesn't really
stamp herself on the track as you might hope. "Move" is another gem tucked away
at the end of the album, grinding along with a suggestive bump. "One Love" and "Sweet
Love" are both deep, funky house tracks with catchy vocals and tasty melodic
hooks. "Everything" adds an '80s/nu-wave sound into the typical house blend which
actually works better in practice than it sounds.
On the flipside, tracks such as "Maybe" and "Honesty" are pop-minded downtempo numbers that are pleasant enough and definitely grow with repeated listening. But at the end of the day, they only serve to remind you that you love Kaskade for the way he tweaks those snare and kick drums into shiny nuggets of deep house soul. The most obvious reminder of this is the lounged-out version of "Soundtrack to the Soul," which seems lacking in comparison to the life-affirming house reworking to be found on San Francisco Sessions.
All in all it's really hard to knock Kaskade for being ambitious, for attempting to put together a well-rounded artist album and for trying not to play himself out, especially when the results are always impeccably produced and easy on the ears. Kaskade has such a strong sense of emotive melody, and an ear for detail that results in compelling song constructions, that after a few listens everything begins to grow on you, and there is not an unpleasant experience to be had on the album. That Kaskade is a stellar house producer we know to be true, and In the Moment confirms this. Perhaps when he has found a similarly distinctive voice in his other musical dabblings, an artist album that tours other electronic sub-genres will be a more consistent outing. Until then, In the Moment provides a solid enough listen and continues to hint at the depths of Raddon's talent.