The pre-release hype for Invol2ver was such that I wouldn’t doubt the higher-ups at Global Underground saw this as a retirement fund. When the promo sheet boldly declares that, “[Invol2ver] has been the most anticipated sequel in electronic music,” I’m only half-laughing, and not just because I can’t think of many other legendary electronic music sequels (though watch out for BT to drop I’ve Frosted My Tips Yet Again). Four years after having redefined his mixing method by incorporating the “live remix” capabilities of loop-based workstation Ableton Live, Sasha has returned with a second disc full of his own exclusive takes on whatever he happens to fancy at the moment.
As with the first Involver, the most immediately striking aspect of part two is the far-reaching track selection. Expanding well beyond the normal borders of Sasha’s tech-trance home, Invol2ver incorporates melancholy synth nostalgia from M83, desperate social commentary from Thom Yorke, and ethereal beauty from Apparat…and then basically turns it all into tech-trance. I won’t blame the man for knowing what he’s good at, but by the time Yorke’s “Eraser” rolls around on the set, it’s really more a brand new instrumental section with snippets of Yorke crying “the more you try to erase me.” Ironically, Sasha’s erased the sad piano and tinny minimal percussion from the original, but then again, it would have collided disastrously with the rest of the mix.
The sound of Invol2ver is a tug of war, flow vs. eccentricity. Sasha wants desperately to move beyond the dime-a-dozen “top one and move to this at a house party” compilations out there, but selector Sasha and (admittedly fantastic) beat matcher and segue maker Sasha have to have a few words with one another. It’s a daring proposition, for Sasha to assimilate something as screamingly non-DJ-friendly as Ray LaMontagne’s Americana, but the result here (seen on “Eclipse (Ray LaMontagne Vocal Version)”) relegates LaMontagne’s contributions to a series of heavily-processed moans. It’s not at all a bad track, and the backmasked vocals are a nice addition, but there’s nothing about it that says it needs to be LaMontagne, and not, say, an anonymous techno vocalist. As a side note, props to Sasha for giving Ableton fans such an obvious use of Live’s native flanger on those hi-hats.
Sasha’s instinct to make things epic is pretty much inescapable – even his recent collection of emFire singles, try as they might to lean on the minimal and subtle side of things, can’t resist some reverberated explosions. This isn’t always at odds with the source material on Invol2ver, however. M83’s “Couleurs” already featured some pretty trance-ready pad strings, so adding a more consistently throbbing four-to-the-floor beat and a more insistent bass line is really all Sasha needs to do to transform it. Squelchy arpeggios don’t really add much to the track, but during the breakdown section, when the main synth line reverses, Sasha’s post-production finally has the desired of effect of, in fact, improving upon the original. No small feat, given that “Couleurs” was already pretty near perfect to begin with. The story’s the same for Apparat’s “Arcadia”, which keeps its frozen falsetto wails and the basic chord progression, while Sasha beefs up the bass, ups the tempo, and drips on some viscous delays and pans. Sasha’s learned this formula well enough to contribute his own original impressive blizzard, in the form of “3 Little Piggys,” the requisite exclusive new track to keep the heads salivating.
Invol2ver is a mix that consistently aims for the stratosphere. In attempting to exceed high expectations and hilarious levels of pre-release anticipation (I myself heard a couple different complete fakes back in February), Sasha sometimes forgets himself, resulting in three- or four-track streams of indistinguishable airiness. Thankfully, he’s always able to pull things back to course with another diamond in the rough selection. It just might take a little time to get there.