As a 42-year-old teetotal practicing Mormon in a genre renowned for its youthful hedonism, Ryan Raddon, aka Kaskade, certainly isn’t afraid to embrace polar opposites. His eighth studio album, Atmosphere, continues in that vein, flirting with everything from high-pitched trap music to brooding post-rock on thirteen ambitious tracks which immediately distance him from his superstar DJ peers.
Indeed, the follow-up to 2011’s Grammy-nominated Fire & Ice is the kind of dance record which even those who hate dance music could find something to appreciate, whether it’s the ethereal lullaby of the Sarah McLachlan-esque “Floating,” the marimba-led jazz chillout of “Take Your Mind Off” or the glacial synth-pop of “Why Ask Why.”
Kaskade tackles this new-found sonic adventurism in style, even successfully toying with elements of classical music with the haunting strings of “LAX To JFX,” one of three melodic interludes on Atmosphere inspired by his jet-setting lifestyle, and the gorgeous baroque-pop balladry of the Lights-featuring “No One Knows Who We Are.”
Elsewhere, the appearance of School Of Seven Bells on the tetchy techno of “Missing You” and Zip Zip Through The Night on “Something Something,” an inventive fusion of acidic dubstep and echo-drenched indie-rock, also showcase Kaskade’s uncanny knack of matching the most random guest artists to songs worthy of their talents.
Those looking forward to his upcoming winter residency at Las Vegas’ Encore will no doubt be relieved to hear at least a few more straight-forward floorfillers, although the lush deep house of “SFO to ORD” and the bass-driven Miike Snow-esque title track, the latter of which features a rare lead vocal from Kaskade himself, are still a cut above your usual “hands in the air” anthems.
But Atmosphere works best when it deviates from the norm. Kaskade might not be the youngest face on the dance scene anymore, but he’s now positioned himself as the most intriguing.