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3.9 out of 5 stars84
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 9 April 2013
There was a time when all Sasha had to do was stand in the back of the booth while another DJ was finishing their set and it would change the way the music sounded. There would be a palpable electric atmosphere of anticipation in the room - and when he played he would take you to musical places that touched your soul and leave you begging for more.

From early 90's Italian piano scream-ups, hardcore, breakbeat and thumping early motorbass techno through early German trance, progressive, progressive trance and then the early 2000's deepness before pioneering CD and Ableton mixing from around 2005 and then the fine-tuned whole experiences of Fundacion and Involver - the quiet Welshman, who became a DJ almost by chance, pioneered and defined every movement that was important.

Throughout this gigantic musical landscape there were landmark sounds and themes: twinkling synths, hypnotic melodies, cheese-free "proper" trance (aka. Sasha-trance), intense emotional swings between high and low, long periods of tension, tease, effects-laden breaks, exciting percussive rhythms and great big dirty riffs that seemed larger than the universe. There was something symphonic about how he played; his sets dared to create something larger any of the individual tunes he sought out (or, to be fair, was often sent first, so revered were his hands). His genius was in spotting how to stitch it all together into the famous Sasha "journey".

The plain truth of "Involv3r" is that these musical themes, which Sasha defined and which define him, take such a back-seat as to feel absent. The big tripped-out textures, the crystalline electronics and the massive cavernous sound have all been muted back massively, to the point they no longer dominate; the varied genres, clever mash-ups and other-worldly edge have gone; in come the slightly funky but blandly inoffensive bass-lines and unplugged-type vocals. His entire musical vocabulary has changed: where he used to be a musical pioneer and polyglot, weaving every style together into his unique sound, this is an uneventful, mumbling meander in monotonism that can't be identified to any one DJ or another. Elements of the old lushness, inventiveness and massiveness are just about there but we're talking distant after-echoes of former glories. Overall the effect is staid, steady and far from dazzling - and side-by-side with "Involver" and "Invol2ver" it's hard to find a continuing musical narrative. I actually wondered if I was playing the wrong album. There's no journey.

It's not bad - not at all - but it's got none of his trademark innovation and so it's not great or even good. There is no way (on any night) on earth that you can identify this as the work of Sasha, versus the first 20 years of his output. There used to be a subtle humour to how he used to play - a delicacy to his imagination, a constantly searching energy for the next way to make the music even better. I experienced many times in real time his almost unearthly ability to build up for a huge musical moment - he had an anxious wit and a crafty lairyness that nobody else could touch and was surely god-given. We're talking early 90's Ibiza through warehouse parties to the present day here, so I'm not just remembering the massive banging tunes he did at times play; he was right to give up playing big fluffy trance in the late 90s and became the master of dramatic tension who could breathe life into records that were unremarkable when heard alone. That was his enduring talent and it has, on this showing, vanished. There's almost none of the old magic in this work.

It's as if the Jimi Hendrix of acid house has switched to playing middle-of-the-road album-oriented rock. No matter how much fun he's having or really loving life, for me there is nothing daring or pioneering going on here. I'm not expecting the big man to go over old ground or regurgitate former formulae; but I feel entitled to expect excitement, dynamics, contrasts and innovation, the stuff for which he is known and loved. Instead I hear a massively missed opportunity and - perhaps - a contractual fulfilment album.

Change is good. We need change. House music and rave culture were the biggest cultural change since the 1960s. So it's right that a DJ who made his name as one of its legendary pioneers should always press forward. I've spent the last few weeks listening to mixes from all of Sasha's career and in all guises and regular shifts of style there was something consistently recognisable throughout - up until about 2008. The change since then is however not so much an evolution as abandoning everything he is known for. It's as incongruous as Sid Vicious becoming a funk DJ, One Direction playing a Baroque string quartet or Kraftwerk appearing on X-Factor. I don't mean that to be scathing; it's simply a way of expressing total confusion at this metamorphosis. Getting further into the details I don't get how the relatively simple-sounding tech-house remixes on "Involv3r" could have been so complex they overloaded the computers to the max. They just don't sound like it. He made bigger-sounding stuff 20 years ago.

Bafflement aside and taking it for what it is, rather than what it isn't, as an album of slightly-more-interesting-than-dull-tech-house music, it reasonably pleasant and not too bad. As just that, it does still struggle to stand out versus the turgid, unexciting, loopy boringness so many DJs are churning out nowadays. It's pretty in places and has some thoughtful sounds and cute vocal snippets, but that is it. It just chugs away on a level with a few twittery or subaquatic sounds making the odd appearance, like a competent but unremarkable warm-up set for a big act who will come on later.

I even listened again, trying to forget that this is the work of Sasha and to approach it as like the work of some upcoming talent I'd never heard of. Even as that, it didn't really grab me. By the time acid house was 25 years old I expected something new and huge, scary and exciting to be going on, possibly that I wouldn't understand because it was too revolutionary (like how my grandparents didn't understand punk or acid house). But if anything, I find a scene that I don't understand because it is at a such a low ebb of creativity (note: *other* scenes are bursting with creativity), where so much music is so polished and well-produced - where production values have taken over from innovation, safety has taken over from experimentalism, melody has given way to effects and beats and where there's so much gloss and so little feeling. We appear to be in an era where not just one but a whole bracket of top DJ's is playing endless grey, dull tech-house yet the online adulation continues no matter what they do. It's an era where DJs are all over YouTube and it's no longer the music, samples or melody that is the star; how things have changed from the rave era of faceless techno b*ll*cks. Maybe because the UK rave culture that Sasha pioneered has now morphed into the global EDM culture, this means that musical has become more conformist and less cheekily irreverent - or maybe there's just more cash in serving up bland EDM.

I can't tell you how much it pains me to write this, like I'm doing the dirty on a really old and treasured friend - I feel almost treasonous. I genuinely love what Sasha did for music and for my life. I know he's still got that visionary energy and pioneering edge in him (evidenced by V_RTEK and a few recent Space sets). But on this devastatingly average mix, he has checked out. As the tune itself says, "We used to be clo-o-oser than this" and right now I feel almost like a piece of my youth has been lost.

Three stars for an album of noodling tech-house-with-vocals; one star for it sounding nothing like Sasha. So two stars overall. Sorry, big fella. I just don't get it.

POST-SCRIPT - two months later: I feel as above just as strongly but I'm adding this because a very suspicious number of 5-star reviews have appeared. Why do I say suspicious? Just a hunch. I can't prove it. But they don't actually address this work (some could apply to almost anything) or if they do only very superficially. They don't appear to be written from a position of knowledge or as a sincere attempt to evaluate what is here. They read more like marketing. If you click on the reviewer's name you can also see that some have only written just the one review. That just seems way too suspicious. If we live in an age where LIBOR and oil prices have been rigged, then why not star-ratings in Amazon reviews? The reviews that offer a more serious level of critique are easy to spot and, interestingly, have the most helpful votes. As I say, just a hunch - but see what you think.

POST-SCRIPT #2 - OK right I think I'm beginning to get what's going on. We're all getting older and the scene has stopped innovating in the way we got used to in the 1990's and much of the 2000's. Times change, tastes change, technology changes and the nature of innovation itself has changed. What appears to have happened is the Big Man (cos he still deserves the title) has switched audiences quite deliberately, no longer delivering big wigged-out tunes for chemically-charged spotty blokes in favour of funkier and sexier stuff that appeals more to women and (perhaps) a more mainstream audience. Hat tip to him to being so bold after such an established career and famous sound. It's brave and as a punter I respect it; I'm no superstar DJ but imagine it took a lot of courage. But as it stands, I don't see that this new groovier sound is as stand-out remarkable as what he did for the spotty ravers. It feels a bit like the "New Coke" saga, where Coca Cola started selling a different product under the same label. Only this time, it does appear to be working to some extent. I'm definitely part of the older audience (though I was never spotty), so it's only honest to mention that. Good luck with the new sound - it doesn't work for me, but I'm sure the new audience is lapping it up.

POST-SCRIPT #3: listening to the Sasha DJ Mag Last Night On Earth takeover from Sep 2014. Now THAT is better Sasha. It's got a better balance between the new chilled groovy sound and enough energy. There's some proper Sasha moments in that. A doff of the hat to the past but not ruled by the past and the new direction is more cogent. Keep at it. You've found better stride here.
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on 20 March 2013
I have left this review until 4 days after release to give the album enough time to sink in, I have now listened to it in it's entirety approximately 15 times so I feel I am in a decent position to offer a balanced and educated view on the record. I have been listening to Sasha since the TDK days and go and see him play live regularly so I'm not new to electronic music or Sasha for that matter.

There is something strange about Involver 3 and it's taken me a few days to figure it out but I've now realised that it's an unfinished project. I base this opinion primarily on the overall flow of the album and the mixing. Sasha does not release many mix albums and when he does release studio albums they are usually phenomenal in flow and mixing execution, this album bears all the hallmarks of Sasha's latest sound but the transitions from track to track are appalling at times. Take for example the transition from the Ananda project into the Zabiela track!!!.... Give me a break! Sasha does not mix like that! It's lazy, it's choppy, I thought my CD had jumped when i first heard it.... Again if you listen to the penultimate track mix into the Keep Shelly in Athens track... Choppy, lazy and completely un-Sasha like. He doesn't mix like that live so why would he do it on a studio album... My theory is that he was rushed into releasing this by the label or he forgot to listen to the final version all the way through because he was sick of working on it... Another reviewer suggested that the absence of Charlie May had a detrimental effect on the album, I can only think an absence from Sasha himself from the studio caused the mixing to be so poor because he should be embarassed to put his name to it when we know he can do so much better....

I think many of the tracks are fantastic and enjoy listening to the album, would concur with the reviewer who mentioned the repetitive drum patterns though. There are some good ideas but I did expect more. Sasha said in his interview about this album that he struggled to get over the line with this one and it shows.... he also mentions that he doesn't want to listen back to it in it's entirety for a while either... Sorry to say but you should have give it a thorough listen through before it was released...

3 out of 5 for me, the music is great, love the remixes but the flow and mixing has not been given the appropriate attention. I keep thinking that one of teh studio engineers hashed it together to meet the deadline but maybe I expect too much. Judge for yourself guys

Just to make clear that the music is really good and would be easily 5 stars if not for the above issues and I would also encourage people to buy the album its definitely worth the price its just that it could have been so much more. So e of the reviewers on here are giving the album 5 stars whilst admitting that the mixing is a bit dodgy at times.... Yes thats right a studio "MIX" album with dodgy mixing, Sasha's philosophy on the involver series is that he can take tracks recreate/remix them so he can mix them at a deeper level but he has not done that on this record its as simple as that
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on 24 March 2013
I had got wind of Involver 3 beiong released some time early in 2012 and was straight on Amazon to pre-order. Didn't even need to think about it; GU Ibiza and Involver 2 are permanent residents on my iphone. Xpander, one of the best prog tunes ever. The Ableton Live Essential Mix on Radio 1, still a fine listen today.

Some 12 months later as part of a lengthy delay (from the sleeve notes it seems perfectionist Sasha wasnt happy with the way the initial mix was working) here it is.

It's average at best.

Now I may be way over the wrong side of 30 but I'm not quite ready to hang up the Sennheisers and reach for Mumford & Sons just yet. Like previous reviewers I completely agree this is stodgy, badly sequenced and has absolutely none, nada, zip of the magic of Involver 2 in particular. Sasha was promising great vocals and melodies here, where are they? I was expecting at the least a dark and pulsing re-work or two of some of the epic sounds on Ghosting Season's "Very Last of the Saints", a superb first release on Sasha's new Last Night on Earth label. It seems Sasha was happier to eke out some plodding and well worn 4/4 beats in the studio.

Was thoroughly looking forward to this to recollect some great old times and remember what Sasha was so great in the first place, hasn't happened though. The lazy sleeve art evoking a diamond in the rough is not going to make up for the fact this is a raging disappointment.

Check out Ghosting Season for some spectral melody and spine tingling moments of a more ambient kind. I'll take that any day over this serving.

A let down because we know what heights the man can scale (and so often has).
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on 16 July 2013
When i read it took him over 12 months to "perfect" this latest Involver the first thought that came into my mind (after listening to it!) was sometimes a perfectionist is so hell bent on overperfecting a project or production that they literally take the soul out of their work and end up with something that is devoid of moving you or moving your senses in such a way that you were originally expecting it to!.....same example can be used for producers of sports cars!....manufacturers now try create an ultimate sports car with technical brilliance and gadgetory but lose the underlying reason and idea of what made their car a "sports" car in the first place.

This is a mediocre mix....massive overuse of vocals and soft tones..watery wavey baselines and hooks so bland they could easily be washed away with a quick rinse under the cold tap!....the productions by Sasha seem rather lazy and (as another reviewer stated) unfinished!. Probably contradicts what i've said about it above but thats just the feeling i get when i listen to it. I've listened to it many many times now and not once have i found the urge to drop what i was doing (no matter how important) and make an inpromptu beeline for the car for a 70 minute directionless journey to listen to it again....i have with some other mixes i've bought and heard recently and most definitely have with Sasha's previous work. To say i was disappointed is an understatement based on what i read was involved in this finished production. Long gone are the days when the likes of Qat Collection made my ears sparkle and head cry out for more of the same from similar DJ's/Producers. Maybe house music is changing and i am not but i know what i like and i know what i've always liked for near on 20 years of listening, buying and dancing to electronic music from Sasha et al. I would have given this CD 3 stars if it was from any other DJ (as im not saying its terrible) but because it's from Sasha i've given it 2 as i expect so much more..... but thats his own fault for turning from an overthinker and taking the soul and any bit of gritty electronic dark room bright light small club early years house music sounds out of his latest offerings!
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on 20 March 2013
I'm a big fan of Sasha, but then, what self respecting electronic music enthusiast isn't? Whilst Northern Exposure is his landmark achievement in terms of influence (it began the 'journey-style mix tradition), Involver 1 & 2 have been groundbreaking in different ways, in terms of shaking up what constitutes a mix/artist album. How then, would the third live up to the previous installments?

I'd have to say on first listen, I wasn't too taken. Maybe it was because I was listening in the car, sat in traffic through much of it, but I just wasn't feeling it. Unlike the two previous Involvers, EVERY track is vocal, and, largely speaking, female vocals which aren't distinct enough from each other. However, I've listened again, in a more relaxed space, and found my foot tapping and ass shaking. I pictured what the experience must be like listening to the set in a club, and the mix suddenly made sense to me. The production quality stood out on better speakers, and at this moment I'd realised Sasha had indeed done it again.

I still feel a few instrumentals would have made this album work better, to break up the vocals a little and give it a more varied feel. Whilst it remains a progressive house album, it's more at the house end of prog house, whilst Involver 2 in particular was a more murky, haunting prog affair.

Stand out moments? Personally I've found myself coming back to Little Dragon's 'Crystal Film' more than any other tune, but certainly Thermal Bear's 'Turn The Tide', Ultraista's 'Small Talk' and James Zabiela's 'The Healing' are 5 star offerings too. The more I listen to this mix, the more I want to hear it again, so certainly this instalment is a grower.

In summary, I prefer both the previous Involvers to this one, but would encourage people to give this a listen; in fact multiple listens (and don't make your first listen sat in Traffic!), on your headphones, or on big speakers alone in your room, to find how Involver 3 speaks to you. It's very clear that only Sasha could have produced this album, as almost no-one else would have had the patience or know-how to get this mix as intricately fine-tuned as he has. Worth delving into.

4/5
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on 26 January 2014
I was fairly indifferent when I heard this for the first time. But after numerous repeat listens, the melodic sound of the mix really got in my head and it's become a classic - lost count of the number of times I've played it. I can appreciate old school Sasha fans not liking the vocals but it adds real emotion to the album. I've tried to listen to the songs on their own and they aren't the same. It's a very melodic journey. Definitely worth it.
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on 28 March 2013
Beware of 5 star reviews for this product! I like many who are disappointed with involver 3 have been listening to Sasha and buying his mix/albums for many years and I can tell you that there is something wrong with this offering.There is no imagination in this mix, some of the bridging parts are awful.it seems drab vocal after vocal have been added to make up the lack of substance in the tracks. Either this shows that Sasha has had not a lot to do with this mix or that he needs to sack his current studio team and get the old crew back, those of us who have at least a little clue know how talented Charlie May, Duncan Forbes and Barry Jamison are!
This mix/album should have been called something else? Maybe Sasha should have started a new series if he was looking at going down a new direction and possibly a new fan base? Yes there maybe some fanboys who will love it no matter what it sounds like but the truth is that some people could have Sasha walk into their lounge drop a turd in between their speakers and they would still say "Sasha that was great, you're the best"......."ummm smells good too."Well I know when I smell a turd and this mix is a turd!!!
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on 27 March 2013
Well, I've given this plenty of listens and to be quite honest I've come to the conclusion it's a shocker. In all the 20 years I have been listening to this music I have never heard such a thing. The mixing is appalling/non existent (my dog could mix better than what's on here), the tunes are insipid and shallow and the general quality of the production is just simply poor: played through my speakers the percussion is so dominant it stops you penetrating the music behind - very irritating; and through the headphones, the shallowness of the production just gives you a headache - not an easy listen.

Like another commentator has pointed out, I cannot believe Sasha has mixed or put his name to this. There must either be something very wrong behind the scenes or Sasha has become so tired with electronic music production that he really doesn't care what sort of nonsense he releases anymore. I suppose it begs the question, will this be his last ever release, because going by this contemptuous effort he sounds very tired. If reputation comes before monetary gain, then 3 years to produce this piece of mediocrity seems a lot of wasted effort for nothing.

I give it 2* to replace the review that was mysteriously changed from 2* to 5* with a completely conflicting overview - hmmm, dodgy! In fact I would take all of the 5* reviews with a pinch of salt. Please see the first review posted way before it's release for some potential insights. Sasha/MOS you might fool some of your casual fans, but by the look of it, the fans that have been listening to you for past 2 decades are not convinced - in fact it's a bit of an insult. Never mind, you have my £9 now, I suppose - Enjoy.
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on 30 March 2013
The chances are that the only people who would bother to read a review of a compilation mix are doing so because they know how special Sasha's Involver mixes are. The man painstakingly breaks down a bunch of carefully selected songs and literally rebuilds them before expertly mixing them into a fine progressive tapestry. The previous 2 installments of the Involver series were showcases in seemless mixing, which always garnered compliments like 'sonic journey' or 'epic stereo experience'. So, here we are at number 3 and as you can see, people are a little bit disappointed; here's why.

The hallmarks of Sasha's work are still here: he has still broken down and remixed each track, most of the mixing is faultless in my opinion (with maybe a couple of exceptions) and the diversity of artists is still extremely varied. However, the problem is the selection of tracks, without a shadow of a doubt. When I think back to the first Involver mix (probably my favourite compilation mix ever) every track was rich with character, diversity and texture. You had the laid back indie track from Grand National, the experimental psychedelic Sphongle track, strong vocal tracks from Unkle, a rocking, pounding Felix the Housecat track, some awesome breakbeat tracks from Lostep and Ulrich Schnauss and that absolutely amazing track 'Belong' by Spooky (Charlie May and Duncan Forbes). In short every track was amazing, even before Sasha got his fingers on them, all he had to do was weave them into an incredible mix. Involver 2, although not as good as the first one, still featured some very strong tracks from excellent musicians including Thom York, Charlie May, Sasha (himself), Apparat, Ladytron and M83. It also had what I consider to be the best closing track of all time in the remix of 'Sometimes I Realise' by The Engineers.

The inlay card for Involver 3 describes the way that Sasha kept delaying the project because he wasn't happy with the selection of songs. I honestly think that he should have just started again using some of the excellent material currently emerging on his new label like 'Cut Me Down', 'Smoke Cone' or 'Flutes'. I don't think Sasha ever managed to find the right mix of tracks, I think he was clutching at straws a bit here. Even his remix of the Foals track is pretty average, perhaps the biggest let down for me as I was hoping for another epic album closer. I might be a bit of a dinosaur but there is no way that you can hold up The XX, Little Dragon and ThermalBear to musicians like Spooky, Unkle, Ladytron and M83. I think that this mix might just be a sign that house music just isn't as good as it was 10 years ago, so it's a shame that Sasha didn't try to bring in different sounds like he did on the first Involver album.

It's not a total waste of money; it's still a pretty decent mix and it works well as background music. But from a DJ who is known for his prominence in the foreground, this is a bit of a disappointment.
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on 6 April 2013
This final edition of Involver has clearly polarised opinion but I have to say that, after a few listens, I really like it and think it is a very worthy addition to the Involver series. I like all the tracks and my particular favourites are Battleships, Thermalbear and the killer remix of The Foals. I am fine with the fact that pretty much all the tracks are vocal - my favourite track from all 3 Involvers, Talk Amongst Yourselves (from the first edition) is a vocal track and I now listen to a lot of vocal house, so it works fine for me. I also love the beatless mix CD and especially the Battleships beatless mix - with the amazing vocal from Abigail Wyles. So, whilst it doesn't quite reach the amazing standards set by Involver 1 - which is, in my humble opinion, a musical work of art - Involv3r is a great addition to the series, so I'll give it 4 stars and would recommend it strongly to anyone who likes Sasha and great electronic music.
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