By: Jack Stein
Long a bastion for indie music lovers the world over, Coachella has undergone its inevitable metamorphosis into the biggest American electronic music festival this side of Ultra. Coinciding with the resurgence of deep house and the emergence of dubstep’s co-ed clamor, I anticipate that the Polo Fields are going to feel, at times, like an electronic music festival at which quaint, guitar-led indie bands just happen to be playing (can you imagine trying to listen to say, Andrew Bird over the din of the midday Sahara Tent? The Jeff Mangum acolyte in me shudders.)
However, while the In the Aeroplane Over The Sea – loving snob within me bares its teeth at the takeover of my beloved festival by glow stick-wielding teens young enough to be my students, the realist within me accepts the fact that resistance is futile. While I have yet to appreciate the carnal thump of Skrillex or the Top 40-ready 4/4 of Avicii on anything more than a “whoa, that sounds like Megatron having sex/is really loud” sort of level, there is a smattering of electronic artists playing this festival that I think will be well worth your 50-60 minutes in the sun. Kaskade is one of those acts.
Like drugs (stupid question?) Here’s an amphetamenic metaphor for you. While the aforementioned aural assault of the year’s highest-profile DJs may recall a bad ecstasy trip in its slightly unnerving and pulse-quickening nature, Kaskade provides a calming alternative. While the Chicago DJ has his share of pounding house hymns (“Everything”), his most moving and representative work provides the listener with a clean and near-narcotic trip that takes you to another plane entirely, sans the grinding-on-your neighbor erraticism. Kaskade is the MDMA to the bevy of pills-found-on-the-ground type acts that will be blowing your eardrums out this year (sorry again, Andrew Bird.)
Kaskade does something even more remarkable with the traditional house music template, something that transcends the surface-level, plastic euphoria that so many of his peers are content to conjure: he imbues his tracks with heart. A good friend and writer for this site once commented on the “soullessness” of contemporary electronic music; Kaskade neatly sidesteps this oft-accurate generalization by way of infusing the 4/4 thump of even his loudest arrangements with the poignant pensiveness of ambient (“4 AM”), lounge jazz (“Right Dream”) or unabashedly heart-on-sleeve pop (“I Remember”.) Listening to the highlights of his discography dispels the notion that electronic’s infestation of the public consciousness is purely a visceral one; when someone can give you the chills and tinnitus simultaneously, that’s reason aplenty to check them out this April.