Sasha’s first Involver project, “Involver,” was released in 2004 and continues to be a seminal disc; a revolution in electronic dance music in terms of how it was compiled and produced. Not only was it a mixed CD (meaning Sasha seamlessly blended each song into the next to create a full disc-length mix), but it was, I believe, the first globally-distributed and sold CD of this genre that “involved” a superstar artist remixing and remastering every song on it, for the purpose of continuity and individualization. Involver was not well received by some, especially those accustomed to Sasha’s bangin’ dance music tradition, but it marked the second step of Sasha’s transformation from a common DJ to a more eclectic producer of genre-defying electronica (the first was his album Airdrawndagger in 2002). Involver did strike a chord with me, overall because of its musicality and intonation, but specifically in terms of its introspective nature, flow and tenor. It has moments of atmosphere and imagination, and in others, more exotic and tribal rhythmic interludes, with the metronome swaying from deliberate calm up to frenetic calamity. Generally, though, Involver tells a story with wondrous peaks and sublime valleys, and leans more towards a Sunday afternoon than a Friday night. It’s a “long drive in summer” kind of disc, as opposed to the more traditional, “I wish I were at a club” mix.
But Invol2ver… Let me first say that Sasha’s more recent mixed sets, some of which I’ve seen parts-of live and others I’ve downloaded, have left me with a sour taste. It’s important to note that Sasha has forever been one of my favorite DJs and artists, and he’s shared the stage at my two favorite live music experiences of all time. However, his minimal, techno, glitch, electro tendencies of late have seemed styled more towards ensuring mediocrity for the masses than ecstasy for the devoted few. I’ve shared opinions with friends that Sasha has, in recent years, deviated from what made him famous far too greatly for the sake of separating himself from the pack. He seems to have lost his way. Indeed, when a DJ begins to aim in a different direction, alienating his fan base is sure to happen on some level, but Sasha has portrayed near irreverence to many of his long-time followers, at a time when electronic music is, in its own way, alienating itself from a great number of enthusiasts.
Sasha’s new, independent and one-of-a-kind mixing style, where he employs a custom-made mixing board and a MacBook, was met with doubt, disbelief and even disappointment when it was first displayed a couple of years ago. He has frequently marked himself as an advocate of change (which is true in everything from his live performances to his mixed CDs, to his albums), and the top ranked DJ broke away from traditional turntables in favor of computers, in part so that he could, by his own admission, return to the point when audiences couldn’t follow his techniques and tricks. This change in equipment was soon followed by a change in music as well, and he seemed to become distracted by his own technology.
So I bought this disc rather reluctantly, whereas in the past, I wouldn’t have given a second thought. I felt it was somewhere in between a leap of faith and an obligation to maintain allegiance. And, in a sentence, I am satisfied. Invol2ver is a wonderful disc in its own right and an exceedingly appropriate sequel to Involver. This second installment will surely satisfy fans of Sasha’s DJing tradition, his innovation, and especially those of his Involver CD. The innovation continues and this project’s distinct collaborative focus produces 73 minutes of ingenuity and enjoyment. Track selection for this disc is well thought out, and his remixing is respectful; each is provided enough identity to allow listeners to remember them individually, and Sasha adds his touch without over complicating their rhythm or structure. The pace is once again slow to build, but deliberate and decisive. Opening etherial tracks are smartly blended, and are followed by sinister bass lines and broken synth sounds with dreamy, filtered vocals. Mid-disc is a bit suspect, as I became bored by one track (typical of my enjoyment of techno-minimal-electro-glitch) which featured numbing loops and chords (I envisioned Sasha staring blankly at his screen, wishing for some kind of a way out), however my boredom was soon succeeded by momentous progression and melody.
Is Invol2ver legendary, or potentially so? I don’t think so. There is no doubt that this mix is very well done and thoroughly enjoyable, however it does not inspire me to put it on repeat, as so many of his earlier mixes have – Involver included. This disc is, however, quite refreshing. I would love to see more of ‘this’ Sasha than the Sasha I’ve seen and heard recently.
Credit for this disc, must as always be shared with Charlie May and co., producers who have apparently gladly subordinated to Sasha: the man, the myth, the superstar DJ.