Artist: Cass & Slide
Title: Burning The Candle At Both Ends
Label: Fire Recordings
By: Vince Hart | 10 March 2002
  1. All The Freaks
  2. Funk In Hell
  3. Opera
  4. Valium Behaviour
  5. Faithless
  6. Havoc
  7. Fever Rising
  8. Spanker
  9. Opera (Stealth Mix)
  10. JFOK
  11. Perception
  12. Sign Your Name
  13. The Doors (Faith Restored)

Cass & Slide "Burning The Candle At Both Ends"

Out Now on Fire Recordings

Former GOA-turned-prog-house kings Cass & Slide offer their first artist album showcasing their own productions (and co-productions with people like Meat Katie, Danny Tenaglia, & Voyager). If you're expecting a slew of "Operas" or "Perceptions," then you're in for a shock. This album tries to be much more, stylistically, but fails to succeed in the end. "Burning..." is little more than a collection of loosely related tracks that, on their own and for the most part, fail to stand out.

The album starts off quirkily with "All the Freaks," a filtered electro breakbeat jam w/ cascading synths and casio-styled porn horn stabs added for cheeky effect. This might go over well as a single if left in the hands of a talented remixer. Otherwise, it's throwaway fodder.

Next up, and co-produced with Meat Katie, is "Funk In Hell," (notice the pun?) which is merely the length of a radio edit at 4:15. It features a predictable 4/4 kick, a wobbling progressive bassline, inane female vocal snippets, some ad libbed metallic synth work and a subtly melodious organ in the background (probably the only thing that stands out in this track). While there are some promising elements, this is no more than a disappointing afterthought.

Next up is "Opera," and anyone who has been following progressive house over the last few years will be familiar w/ this dark, brooding anthem. Pulsating low-end modulating synths push the track forward while piercing atmospheric stabs and a sinister muffled operatic choir chants unintelligibly in the background. Humble synth arrpegiations continue to push the groove on, and thus you have a tune that easily stands on it's own. Unfortunately, this single has since come and gone, but this is definitely one of the album's highlights.

"Valium Behavior" brings the level down a few notches w/ warm grainy pads and ambient synth washes. A morphed vocal sample "be my lady" repeats randomly throughout the track while the melody is hypnotically repeated and some tribal percussion is laid on top. A tremulous synth, which wouldn't sound out of place on an old sci-fi flick, is featured in the last half of the tune, along w/ some choir remnants from "Opera." This is at least an improvement over the introduction of “Burning..”

“Faithless” features some soulful vox from Jason Donovan. This is a pretty nice downtempo vocal tune barring the porn horns once again put to ill use. They’re just outdated and out of place especially in the context of this serious track (“I never want to lose my faith in you.”). With the right radio edit, this might go down a storm with the masses. Otherwise, in it’s current form, “Faithless” quickly loses appeal after more than a few listens.

“Havoc,” featuring an annoyingly distorted, morphed, clanging and reverberated vocal snippet, is basically a nod to the 80’s. It has obvious electro influences present in the heavily sampled breakbeat used in scores of dance tracks from the 90’s (2 thumbs down for the blatant lack of creativity). Yet another disappointment on an album that misses the mark in so many places.

“Fever Rising” is probably a textbook example of what some are calling BSPF (bog standard prog fodder). Co-produced by NY house legend Danny Tenaglia, it utilizes a sickeningly boring bassline (striking on every quarter note, as to give it a military-styled march feel) , a meandering nasal synth that digs into your psyche to the point of insanity, and some predictable divatastic vocals proclaiming how “it’s always been you that brings the fever rising.” If you’re a fan of predictable prog house, then this is right up your alley. This was the most recent single, so the torture has thankfully come and gone.

“Spanker,” another gem amongst a sea of turds, is here to save the day! Cass & Slide shine the brightest when they stick to deep progressive grooves. Like “Fever Rising,” this one isn’t particularly innovative, but it is a solid chunk of chugging tribal progressive house goodness with just the right amount of melody, giving it a mood & depth that you can really sink your teeth into without leaving a bad taste in your mouth. It continually builds and tastefully squelches with time and would work as a killer building track for the progressive house DJ.

Up next we have the Stealth Remix of “Perception,” which is a completely toned down take on the original, since it is nearly beatless, features a transparent piano solo, subtly alters the chord progressions and haunts the soundscape with some ghastly and indiscernibly morphed whispering chants. Not for the faint at heart, this really highlights Cass & Slide’s musicianship and ability to create moods w/ sound.

“JFOK,” co-produced by Voyager, is another deep foray for Cass & Slide. Featuring vocal snippets that touch upon some conspirators’ thoughts of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, “JFOK” is a serious and unrelenting melodic progger that is well-crafted for the more discerning dancefloors. Voyager’s trademark squelchiness is apparent as is his epic chordal manipulation. Not remarkably outstanding, but not too shabby either.

If the name Sasha is familiar to you, “Perception” needs no introduction. Featured on the seminal GU13, this may very well be Cass & Slide’s magum opus. It’s bold and psychedelic wall of cascading synths swallows you whole and refuses to spit you out. This was an anthem of ’99, which many consider to be the year of trance. If that is so, “Perception” is a defining moment where trance and progressive house (and sprinkles of goa ;)) were married in perfect harmony. Quite possibly the highlight of “Burning…”

“Sign Your Name” is nothing more than Cass & Slide having a little fun with an R&B hit from yesteryear by Terence Trent D’arby. It’s well-produced and catchy like your average pop song, but doesn’t hold much else in the area of longevity. If anything, it’s good for a laugh and perhaps a little reminiscing (if you’re old OR young enough to know). It’s definitely not progressive house, but it has the atmospherics you’ve come to expect from the guys.

Finally, we arrive at the outro tune of “The Doors (Faith Restored).” Possibly inspired by the Doors themselves, this also features the vocals of Jason Donovan. It’s little more than a looped breakbeat/guitar track and a vocal proclaiming how it’s “easier to leave the doors wide open.” I reckon this means we should be expecting a follow-up sophomore album sometime in the future. Let’s hope for something that has a bit more coherency than “Burning the Candle at Both Ends.”

This album would have gotten at least one more point from me had it been professionally sequenced. As it stands, there are just a slew of poor to mediocre tracks that don’t stand out on their own, so some clever sequencing would have certainly helped to provide needed coherency. Finally, Cass & Slide have shown that they can experiment, but their experiments are done without keeping the end product in mind, thus they come across as a coupla’ carefree blokes who have little better to do than tweak knobs the whole day long. However, they are quite masterful at musicianship and crafting deep melodic grooves. Like BT, they should stick to what they do best.

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