In March 1992, something very important happened to the UK charts. After a couple of years of pricey American imports appearing in the shops, with their astonishing playing times and immense numbers of remixes, it was decided that similar releases should be allowed in the UK as well. A rule was devised stating that a single could last up to 40 minutes if it only contained versions of a single track. It only lasted for six years before new regressive chart rules killed the CD single for good, but for a short time, the remix was king.
But not just that – innovative and inventive artists such as The Future Sound of London were able to use this new rule to release what were, in effect, mini-albums – and so it was that twenty years ago this week the brilliant Cascade was unleashed.
After their 1991 debut Accelerator, containing the seminal Papua New Guinea, they seemed to have settled on the pseudonym Amorphous Androgynous for the more ambient exploratory sounds they were creating, and what resulted was their second full album Tales of Ephidrina in mid 1993. A matter of months later, they were back in the charts with Cascade, the first single since Papua New Guinea, and a single which was quite unlike anything else on the charts at that time.
The single contains six tracks, opening with Cascade (Part 1), seven and a half minutes of pure, laid back, electronic heaven. Part 1 is the long version of what would become the album version the following year, and it is no overstatement to describe it as truly beautiful.
Part 1 segues perfectly into Part 2, as it should – these are, after all, parts of the same piece of music. This part is longer and deeper, with a bit of a tribal beat, a bit more electronic chirruping and some extra synth washes.
Part 3 is rather different, but will be very familiar if you have listened to the subsequent double album Lifeforms or the From the Archives series which documents this period. An occasional pounding bass and tremulous drums build a vivid soundscape, which is built on further by the more rhythmic Part 4.
The contrast really comes with Part 5, which begins with the sounds of what appears to be a very urban environment, before returning very much to the jungle soundscape of before, but with a much denser, more beat-driven, rhythmic sound. Punctuated by synth bubbles and sweeps, it’s completely different again to any of the parts which came before it. As an extended piece of music exploring the themes of Cascade, the whole piece is really incredibly beautiful.
By the end of the single, it would be easy to have forgotten what Cascade, the track you heard on the radio, might have sounded like, so it’s with some relief that the radio version, Cascade (ShortForm) turns up right at the end. It’s also hard to imagine it getting radio play, and yet this single reached the top 30, so Bruno Brookes would have spun it on the official UK top 40 show in its day. The short version only begins to hint of what you might hear on the full single, but it’s a great little track too.
This template, of the just-under-40-minute exploratory single, was one to which The Future Sound of London would return several times, with Lifeforms, My Kingdom, and We Have Explosive. It’s an unusual format, but makes for a very special single, which can truly be enjoyed in the way that an album might.
You can find the entire Cascade single on Amazon at a bargain price.