The house scene is full of DJs trying to make it big by remixing someone else's music. Those sort of DJs eventually fall into the good old trap of overusing one or two synthesizer effects, as anyone who knows more than one Tonite Only remix will already be unsteadily familiar with. That's why it is extremely comforting when a house artist comes along who can actually write songs. Ryan Raddon is just that.
Fans of his music will know him by his stage name, Kaskade, the house artist who made it big with "Steppin' Out" in 2004. Two years later, and he has released his third original album, Love Mysterious, a further exploration into the chilled side of house, though the first track wouldn't lead you to believe that.
Were it not for the strong dance beat, the opening track "Stars Align" could easily be mistaken simply for a pop song. The vocals and instrumentation have an almost 21st century Sting sensibility to it, before he fell in love with Elizabethan lute music, of course. The beginning of "All You" sounds like an Imogen Heap song, characterized by slightly distorted harmonies along a melancholy melody. That is until it breaks into the familiar sounds of a repeated synthesizer loop, high-pitched and built for dancing if nothing else.
The album follows a very unpredictable path through various forms of house music, from traditional house music built around a heavy beat and female vocals, to the tracks that follow in the strain of Scottish electronic musician, Mylo. "Be Still," the first single to be lifted off the album, is the typical material for dance compilations everywhere, and has already begun to appear on the various Ministry of Sound Annuals, however it works so much better within the context of the album, creating a pathway between the heavier "All You" and the extremely mellow "Distance."
Unlike so many albums today, the slower songs on Love Mysterious don't feel like they have inserted to meet unwritten obligations. "Distance" is the ultimate chill-out song, smooth female vocals lying on top of a muted dance beat, bringing the album to its most soothing point with the addition of a great trumpet solo. Still, not all the songs are hits, with "The X" having almost the same riff as "Be Still," and "Fake" a little too bare to be a true dance song, and too fast to be classified as chill-out.
Kaskade almost struggles to be as organic as he showed himself to be in the first portion of the album. While the songs are still a great demonstration of his ability to write songs well, tracks like "Sometimes" and "In This Life" feel a little too familiar to be considered as great as his others. Nevertheless, he excels at the more electronic side of house just as well as the organic, "Sorry" an excellent testimony to that regard. "4am," the last track of the album, gladly forfeits the strong drum beat in favour of great structure and a more natural feel, with raw electric guitar, the reappearance of the Imogen Heap-esque harmonies, and a single melodic hook that carries the song gladly.
As poppy as Kaskade's Love Mysterious is, it won't be as popular as Bob Sinclar's recent hits. But that isn't its purpose – Kaskade just wants to prove that he can exist in the house music scene without surrendering to the pressures enforced by the DJ moniker. While the album has its weak moments, it doesn't have the clichéd synthesizer riffs and over-the-top bass hooks. In this, the album succeeds, and manages to meet the middle-ground between popularity in the house scene, and true originality the likes of Mylo.