Sasha: Involver

[30 August 2004]

By Alison Wong

Involver, Sasha’s latest album, comes two long years after the release of his first artist album, AirDrawnDagger. For those snorting and stamping their feet in anticipation, Involver will not only alleviate frustration and provide relief, it will whet appetites for the continued evolution of Sasha the artist. Anyone can take a track, mix it up, and call it a day. Those who do it well can go so far as to put a stamp on the track to call it their own, but Sasha is one of the few who has the vision to take a bare track and give it the full makeover with the kind of care and attention that one would need to expertly apply and seamlessly blend multiple layers of eye shadow.

Conceptually the album is pretty sound, but it’s far from perfect in execution. Detail is the key to the album’s success and is representative of the departure from his previous works to date, but this tends to exist only within the development of individual tracks. There is a lack of progression between the tracks that doesn’t sit well, and this mars the overall quality of the album.

In spite of this, the album is wonderfully overlaid by some of the most beautiful and pure vocals around, and this is probably one of the biggest highlights of this album. Opening with Grand National’s “Talk Amongst Yourselves”, this is a lightweight introduction for what is to come. Atmospheric and gentle in tempo, it provides a 10-minute ride on a steady medium beat that carries on it waves of mesmerizing vocals. The second track, Shpongle’s “Dorset Perception”, lures you into a false sense of timelessness with its sustained ethereal vocals before snapping you out of the reverie with an accelerated break beat that spins circles around multiple flavors, including a Spanish flamenco guitar. There is a slight disconnection to the third track. This is a shame, as “These Days” by Petter is probably the best track on the album, and it takes a good couple of moments to adjust to the shift in mood. Perfectly balanced in sound between vocals and bass line mix, this track is so easy to listen to that it’s over before you know it. The magic manages to continue as the track blends imperceptibly into the next, “What Are You to Me?” by UNKLE, but unfortunately the bubble bursts halfway through. This commercial-sounding track lapses into an unsalvageable monotony that breaks all concentration and, sadly, redemption doesn’t come until four tracks later, by which point most people will probably have given up.

“Burma” by Lostep sees the return of the ever-reliable strong break beat, with a compelling melody that drives momentum with a clear objective. The track builds by continuously layering levels of sound upon one another, creating a complex wash of colors that threaten, but never manage, to overpower the aural sense. Fired up by this track, the album continues relentlessly to the end with “Watching Cars Go By” by Felix Da Housecat, and concludes with “On My Own” by Ulrich Schnauss. The former pulsates with an intense bass and echoing vocal mix that is reminiscent of early house music. It garners points only for a smooth and expert delivery; it doesn’t hold much by way of originality. Winding up to a strong finish, the final track resonates with a renewed energy.

In conclusion, this album is a hodge-podge of tracks. This album is really only for those with the patience to grind with Sasha as he settles into his artist groove. Clearly he’s not there yet, though there is evidence of some really cool stuff to come. It’s worth a spin, but you won’t lose a lot of by holding out.

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