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Kaskade – Atmosphere

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Atmosphere_artwork.jpgLabel: UltraScore: 8/10

Kaskade’s Atmosphere album reveals a dexterity for sultry orchestral strings and ambient textures as well as a production prowess in a variety of musical settings- not just the big club anthems.  With its dynamic musicality, the Grammy-nominated DJ and producer’s eighth studio album eclipses 2011’s aggressive Fire and Ice and also 2010’s punishing yet ultimately monochromatic Dynasty.

The overriding tone of Atmosphere is one of maturity and control.  Atmosphere’s brightest moments are the smoldering “No One Knows Who We Are” with Swanky Tunes featuring Lights, the sparse yet captivating “How It Is” featuring Debra Fotheringham and most notably the arresting, ambient “Floating” with the positively divine Haley.  Magic happens whenever these two collaborate and “Floating” is no different.  Stripping away the beats in this way raises the stakes in a sense and puts more of a focus on the song itself which Kaskade himself seemed very conscious of during the creation of the album: “Production styles come and go, but good songs can stand the test of time.”

Perhaps as a nod to Kaskade’s Om Records catalogue, a healthy dose of deep house is thrown in which creates a sense of homecoming.  The jazzy vibe of the linear “Take Your Mind Off” conjures memories of 2008’s “Still, Still, Still.”  The combination of the three instrumental tracks- the glitzy “MIA to LAS,” the orchestral, minor-keyed “LAX to JFK” and the swaggering, retro “SFO to ORD” together serve as a sort of travelogue and demonstrate how Kaskade doesn’t need to rely on vocals in order to create something compelling.           

Last Chance,” “Why Ask Why” and “Feeling the Night”  are all big on energy and are festival-ready, but they feel a bit safe on an eclectic album that covers so much ground.  The album’s title track- with vocals contributed by Kaskade himself- falls into this category as well whilst the “Atmosphere” Redux Edit (available via iTunes on the deluxe version) is a deeper, more satisfying exploration with its booming stabs and stripped-back approach.  The chiming “Missing You,” featuring the yearning vocals of School of Seven Bells, simmers as it straddles the line between deep house gem and club banger.   

Now more than ever Kaskade’s focus seems to be on the more subtle details like texture and mood.  With music ranging from gentle ambient to festival-sized house, Atmosphere is bold in its trajectory and overall successful in its delivery.

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