The deluxe version of Kaskade's
new album, Fire & Ice
, plays very much like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. Although none of the choices lead you to Page 17, where you are asked to inspect a well and end up being pushed into New York City while a creepy Susan Sarandon says she's about to send you to a place with “no happily ever afters.” But on Fire & Ice
there's simply a choice between two versions of each song that give you pleasant alternatives based on your objective. If you want to chase the sun in an ongoing quest to Never Let The Party Die, then the Fire side of the album might be more up your alley. If you're less enamored with constant dance beats, accepting the changes in the weather and relaxing with a warm cup of cocoa and some atmosphere, perhaps the Ice versions are your preference. Either way, Kaskade's
got your number. This album is one of his most entertaining, and for anyone who has listened to Kaskade's
evolution over the years, that's saying a lot.
Working with great voices
Kaskade didn't, and hasn't, done it on his own. One of his strongest talents is finding the right voice and adapting their vocals to his music. Kaskade isn't a producer that bends entirely to his vocalist, nor is he someone who is unyielding and refuses to find the happy medium that allows a collaboration to truly shine. So yes, when he features Neon Trees and Skylar Grey, you're going to get two different examples of Kaskade's style. Both are definitely his, but the aggression that seethes from “Lessons In Love” with Neon Trees is a marked distinction from the orchestral and ponderous production of Skylar's “Room For Happiness.” Dan Black, Rebecca & Fiona, Haley, Late Night Alumni, Mindy Gledhill, Marcus Bently, and Quadron also collaborate.
Two flavors of each track
The most engaging aspect of this album is the duality between the Fire and Ice versions of his tracks. Take “Eyes" that features Mindy Gledhill. As an album opener, “Eyes” has everything to grab your attention; compelling beats, excellent vocals and catchy lyrics. It's a great track, but what about its flip side? The Ice version chills (hah, see what I did there?) the track down to subzero temperatures. In this version, a soft breakbeat accompanies a melancholy piano and Mindy's deep vocals echoed for a roomier feel. Kaskade isn't the focus of this version of “Eyes.” His production takes the back seat to Mindy's haunting words. Rebecca & Fiona's stadium-filling monster club track “Turn It Down” flips instead into crackling soft pop with an edgy dubstep center. Introspective and engaging, Marcus Bently's “Let Me Go” transforms from a subtle dance track into something we had likely heard in a movie. You know, that sad scene where the main character walks around feeling sorry for themselves? Yeah, that's where the Ice version of “Let Me Go” would feature, and it would work. That “Room For Happiness” track earlier? In its original form, the orchestral sound is comprised of synths. But in its Ice version, Kaskade breaks out the strings to send Skylar to her happily ever after in a captivating, beatless, gut-wrenching rendition. The album's only instrumental track, “Lick It” starts off as spastic, glitchy, techy, electro house and ends up as a soft piano-dance track with crackles like an open fire to accompany the simplistic and open plinking of notes.
But all of the Ice versions don't achieve the same result. Kaskade
isn't quite so simple as to take every track on Fire & Ice
and provide essentially a “candlelight” version. On Quadron's “Waste Love”, the original take is both low-key and atypical against the backdrop of the rest of the album. It's jazzy, spastic, and fun. The Goldfrapp-esque vocals of Quadron fits in with the music perfectly. But the Ice version? That's when the club beats come in, with synths and everything. Still a little jazzy, and not nearly as aggressive as other tracks, “Waste Love” still sounds great in either direction. Conversely, “Lessons In Love” goes from club track to jazzy fusion track in its alternate form. “Ice” featuring Dan Black goes from pulsing dance track to...pulsing dance track, albeit a little more pop oriented. Haley's captivating contribution to the album, “Llove” (purposefully misspelled) goes from intense and powerful dancefloor music to something darker, poppier, more melodic, and far more compelling. Both versions are excellent, but for me it just doesn't get any better than the combination of handclaps and round pop beats on the Ice version. And although Kaskade is technically part of Late Night Alumni, they are still featured here with “How Long.”, The Fire version is definitely far more Kaskade in style than Late Night Alumni's. But that's ok, because the Ice version is Late Night Alumni all the way with beats drenched in meaning and the vibe of the track both somber and driving.
I am incredibly impressed with Kaskade's Fire & Ice
. Not only has he done an excellent job of embracing a style that originally garnered him attention, he shows an evolution and an ear for multiple ways to interpret his own music. That's a sign of a true musician. Not every track on Fire & Ice
is a winner, but there are no losers here. Whatever Adventure you Choose, you're bound to enjoy it.