Nowadays, saying one likes house music is like saying one likes rock music. There are so many different kinds of house music, from filtered French disco to German clicks ‘n’ cuts to Chicago booty house, that the idea of “one nation under house” is largely a myth, or, at best, wishful thinking. Each variant has its own scene, and rare is the DJ like Laurent Garnier who can tie together multiple strands in a set. Kaskade’s House of Om grafts a New York big club mentality onto San Francisco deep house, and the results are, um, mixed.
The first track best illustrates this uneasy fusion of big and small. Kaskade remixes David Morales’ “Here I Am”, infusing the vocal house tune with his signature flanged guitars. Somewhere in there is a song, but with all the reverbs and filters choking the vocals, the tune is merely a track. Even though this is a DJ mix, letting the first track play for seven minutes demands that it be more than a linear assemblage of sounds.
The next six tracks are heavy on vocals, both male and female. This gets a bit trying, as the endless parade of divas prevents the music from speaking for itself. The mix peaks with the tellingly named “Big Room Mix” of Kaskade’s own “Everything”. Whooshes, cymbal crashes, and flanged guitars run amok, bringing to mind ten-dollar drinks, ribbed t-shirts, and women gamely trying to dance in high heels. This is house music for shampoo adverts, all gloss and Pro Tools production.
After a brief transition track, the mix significantly improves as the scope shifts from big to small. Jamie Lewis and Nick Morris’ “Cookys” has an endearing, “Another One Bites the Dust”-esque groove, while C&M Productions’ “Inside (Deep Inside Mix)” is an infectious shuffler. The hands down (or hands in the air?) highlight is Kaskade’s mix of West Magnetic’s “Give It Up for Free”. Here, he mostly avoids big room sonics in favor of a minimal, tech-y groove that lets the lovely vocals on top sing. The mix then closes with the ridiculously swinging “Once in a Lifetime” by Full Intention and the classic San Francisco house of Latrice Barnett’s “Endless Way”.
As a DJ mix, House of Om mostly works. The mixing here is smooth and unobtrusive, and the mix gets better towards the end, what every DJ set should do. If one can’t get past the velvet ropes of the initial vocal tracks, one can still go home happy with the soulful last six songs. Kaskade is both a formidable producer and DJ, and if he can ease up on the flange a bit, he has a big future ahead.
// Notes from the Road
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