Sasha

Airdrawndagger

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

After a dozen or so years as a high-profile remixer and DJ, Sasha's premiere full-length album has an almost unfair amount of anticipation to live up to. After Sasha assembled a couple solid Global Underground mix CDs plus jaw-dropping remixes for the likes of Madonna, GusGus, and several others, Airdrawndagger sounds a bit anticlimactic by comparison. All his past work earned him the spotlight, but now that he has it he's not sure what to say. It suggests he's better stretching and dissecting other people's material than he is at writing his own. This being said, Sasha and co-composer Charlie May have an exceptional ear for the tension-and-release formula of trance music. Their crispness stays intact here, along with gorgeous production value, but there's a price to pay for all the digital exactness: sterility. Track for track, the CD strains for the visceral excitement that has come so easily elsewhere. As subdued as it is, "Mr. Tiddles" is a warm depth charge to start the disc. It at least succeeds in delivering an anthem, rather than going right for the rave-house glowsticks and 190 beats per minute. It takes the album some time to summon a consistent attention-grabber like "Immortal," which growls through the streets like Orbital in a hovercraft. Immediately following, listeners can finally feel the hairs on the back of their necks start to stiffen as the nine-minute centerpiece, "Fundamental," marries cinderblock beats, acid-soaked squelches, and an opulent synth-bell refrain that digs hard into the trenches of dance club aesthetics. This, and the two subsequent tracks of "Boileroom" and "Bloodlock," is the reason to -- yes -- buy the album. "Requiem" is a lush cloud of sequencers that reaches the twilight of the disc, owing its sound to mid-'80s Tangerine Dream as much as anything in the past couple decades. The two pieces that follow are not especially groundbreaking, but there's enough variety to prove that this is in fact a legitimate album instead of an overstuffed EP like his polished Xpander from 1999. Airdrawndagger has a sharp blade, and hovers with threat, but it takes almost half the album before it draws blood. For Sasha, it's the shape of things to come rather than a triumphant arrival.

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