One thing that Kaskade’s thoughtful deep house never used to have was attitude. Dynasty shows the DJ’s fervent attempt to shake that stereotype. The collaborations with Deadmau5 in the last few years have awoken the previously humble house DJ to a whole new world of dance music, one where the funk is funkier, the beats are heavier, and acoustic strumming is replaced by throbbing synth chords.
The sound of the Deadmau5 verses Kaskade singles “I Remember” and “Move for Me” was a strand of euphoric yet classy dance, and this sound has clearly shaped Dynasty in ways that Kaskade’s hesitant 2008 effort, Strobelight Seduction, only hinted at. The two tracks in question took the ethereal female voices and demure chord progressions of Kaskade and injected them with the Deadmau5 steroid, resulting in an onslaught of sizzling yet lush house chords. Now left to his own devices, and with his more gentle work demoted to his modestly beautiful Late Night Alumni project, what has Ryan Raddon, aka Kaskade, learned from his dance-dabbling?
For starters, he’s certainly learned that you can progress without forgetting your roots. Where he would lightly scatter acoustic pickings and thump-click beats, he now sews seeds of euphoria, and compromises by sticking with the petite voices of past vocal flings Becky Jean Williams and Haley, just cranking their voice tracks up some more. Their whispery musings sound even more epic and regal when projected over the razor sharp electronics of Tiësto collaboration “Only You”, and the effortlessly beautiful opener, “Start Again”.
“Don’t Stop Dancing” is irresistible and the dancepunk-tinged “Fire in Your New Shoes” is unrecognizable as Kaskade, but it works with Dragonette kicking up a sarky fuss over the top. Elsewhere, darker territory that recalls “I Remember” suggests Raddon doesn’t need any dead v3rm1n to give his tracks the necessary bite to fill floors. “Human Reactor” “wakes up to sobriety” but keeps its gloriously relentless synthgrind going anyway, and “Call Out” is positively balearic in its clanging steel pan synths and shuffling click and thud beat.
The shamelessly loungey “Don’t Wait” is a fond glance at Raddon’s It’s You It’s Me days, and the busy strings and leisurely paced guitar strumming show he’s not lost his touch for comedown music, either. It’s a shame that the version of the gorgeous, heartbreaking Late Night Alumni track “Empty Streets” featured here is shattered by the empty clunk of an inappropriate bass sound and overeager beat, but it’s a minor quibble.
On the whole, the Kaskade project is well on its way to becoming as relevant to house and dance fans as the Deadmau5s and Freemasons of this world. Finding his niche in the market of obnoxious kicks and squelchy basses was never going to be easy for a deep house DJ, but Dynasty is the sound of Kaskade once and for all making the transition from 3am at the flat to 1am on the dance floor.