Making the leap from globetrotting club DJ to successful album artist is no easy task, as Paul Oakenfold’s recent cameo-crammed flop, Bunkka (Maverick), proved. But superstar trance jock Sasha appoints himself pretty well on his first non-DJ mix.
Steering clear of the artistic potholes that derailed Oakenfold — flashy guest spots and schizo genre dabbling — Sasha keeps it simple: he sticks with the moody and majestic instrumental trance that’s made him a huge draw on the international party circuit. Still, those expecting fist-pumping glowstick anthems may be surprised: Airdrawndagger is stocked with more armchair introspection than dance-floor abandon. In fact, it’s not till the sixth cut, the baleful breakbeat track "Fundamental," that the album gets really sweaty. Sasha’s downtempo excursions are nevertheless enthralling, blooming with baroque baubles, gently arching melodies, and knotty acid-house tweaks. The best of them is the patient dub-house exercise "Mr. Tiddles," which combines the romantic sweep of trance with a darker techno mood.
At its worst, Airdrawndagger drifts into maudlin ambient excursions that feel like a rehash of early-’90s chillout. Most of the album lies between these extremes — it’s workmanlike trance that will please Sasha’s rabid fan base but probably won’t win him many converts.
(Sasha performs tonight, August 15, at Avalon. Call 617-262-2424.)