Sasha Airdrawndagger Review

BBC Review

At last the wait is over and Sasha releases a debut album of glorious, melancholic...

Christian Hopwood 2002

With no vocals, no collaborations and very little in the way of the pumping, progressive sound that has for so long been his mainstay, this album might come as a disappointment to anyone expecting something akin to a DJ mix CD. However, remove the sacred goggles of prog and its possible that Sasha's debut might blow your mind.

There are few DJs in the UK with his kudos so how do you go about introducing Sasha? Beginning his DJing during the ware house party scene at the end of the eighties, he found slots and residencies at the Hacienda, Shelly's as well as Renaissance. His awesome partnership with Jon Digweed took them to Twilo in New York and Bedrock in the UK, and his Global Underground, Northern Exposure and Communicate mix CDs are all genre bench marks. His depth of experience and understanding of the crowd combined with his musical knowledge elevate him as one of the world's best. Surprising then, that his debut album should be the down tempo experiment in electronica that it is.

There is little here that recalls the earlier adventures of Sasha on his mix albums or even his EP from 1999 which included the unrivalled, progressive monolith "Xpander". Perhaps the only similarity is that the music is continuous with each track shifting the pace and mood with the album assuming one piece in many parts.

That said, "Cloud Cuckoo" is worthy of individual praise. The haunting guitars and swells drift over a shuffling break beat, brooding bass, and chimes. As a production the track is beautifully put together and reminiscent of some of the stuff Circulation have been putting out over the last 12 months. The closing opus "Wavy Gray" is Airdrawndagger's crown jewel. Whilst deceptively simple, the genius in this glittering, euphoric masterpiece is the subtlety in the production, demonstrating Sasha's expert execution and gift for twiddling knobs.

There has been much grumbling in the press about this record sounding retro. In part, this is true with traces of Aphex Twin or Orbital creeping in to the mix. But, as is often the case with Sasha, the album needs a few listens and takes some getting used to. Ultimately, it is this lack of immediacy that will give this record a shelf life. A definite grower.

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