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In a previous lifetime, the scenario Raz Olsher found himself in when birthing new LP ‘Audio Diaries’, might have been reserved only for long-standing artists desperate to give their next body of work, fresh perspective; ones ravaged by crippling bouts of writer’s block; or those privileged enough to justify the schlep for a ready-made back-drop to that difficult 3rd album.
In a post-COVID-19 world, however – writing and recording from a remote beach in Thailand, with grocery shop-bought monitors and a limited pool of digital-only plug-ins wasn’t a calculated maneuver, but in actual fact – the best available option. The most intriguing and heartening aspect of this ‘forced-hand’ situation though – is that with the chips firmly down and Olsher’s artistic side entering ‘fight-or-flight’ mode – the East Londoner finds a way to turn his ill-equipped, trinket-less situation to his clear advantage. Context aside – this is a rich and accomplished body of work, by anyone’s standards.
In fact, from as early on as 30 seconds into track one – and with no safety net in tow – there’s a palpable sense of surety, telling you to trust in these hands; as ‘Prepare For It’ – boldly allows the naked space in-between to do the heavy-lifting, whilst the compact drum work and sub-aquatic textures merely provide the platform. A brave opening statement when you consider this to be the debut long-player from an industry renowned musician and composer that knows precisely what’s at stake. Reassuring to know then, that it’s this very cavalcade of knowledge and experience collected over the years, that ultimately equips him to take such a brassy approach. As the only flair-like touch we really see applied throughout the album, is in the carefully appointed use of samples. In this instance, it’s the mighty Sun-Ra who’ve been woven in – and so seamlessly in fact – that they end up operating on much the same level as the instrumentation itself. So whilst Olsher may be unable to escape the limitations of his working environment – this cornucopia of borrowed genius, squirreled away and banked over the years, is now something he can turn to for that much-needed jump start and ‘break glass in emergency’ moment.
Upon reaching the track’s final bars, we’re barely aware of the soft and sultry trance we’ve meanwhile been placed in, so focussed have we been on the courageous opening gambit; and before we’re able to contemplate catching up – the track melts luxuriantly into ‘What Will Happen?’, whose delicate melodious character gently coaxes us back up to the surface. This artful segueing then continues with the dub-washed delights of ‘Skylarking’; the Bill Withers celebrating ‘Hands On’; and the low-riding gnarl of ‘Isan Molam’ – a sub-oscillating houser that doths a cap to Olsher’s physical surroundings, whilst also encapsulating the very essence of Bassically in 5 minutes and 15 seconds of dusky – yet refined – dancefloor perfection. After this autographic number, we’re greeted by another moment of brazen brilliance. As nestled at the heart of ‘Audio Diaries’ is ‘Lush Cacophony’. A rare example of a track title’s audacity, being matched in full, by artistic execution. The same could be said for its shimmering successor – ‘Ephemeral Skies’; as however abstract its title may appear – you just sense that the vivid scene unfolding in your own mind’s eye, is identical to the one Olsher chose to paint for us. Then, when the tripped-out haze eventually lifts, a sense of the forebode surrounds and the sinister ‘Strictly Heads’ takes hold; creating slow-motion magic so seductive – we’d suggest it’s Olsher’s most beguiling work to date.
Keeping us enveloped in this murky atmosphere are ‘Listen Carefully’ – a foggy, subterranean stepper with catacomb acoustics to match; and ‘Love You Long Time Too’ – a number that floods the same reverb-filled space, but with a warmer, more comforting glow. The moment its soporific claws dig in, however – a volley of drums, bass, and liquified jungle energy boots us back into the here-and-now; as ‘Coming To An End’ sweeps the leg and fondly reminds us of those naive, tripped-out moments on 6 AM dancefloors.
The penultimate entry in Bassically’s ‘Audio Diaries’ sees Olsher in his absolute element, now seemingly reveling in his bare-bones environs. As having been romanced through the full misty-eyed rave experience by the tracks preceding it – ‘You Got It’ further toys with our unshakable sense of nostalgia through its palatial, widescreen electronics; offering us a moment for self-reflection for that truly authentic next-day wig-out. Before we slide down a rabbit hole of our own making though – Olsher snaps his fingers, drops the curtain, and rolls out the album’s triumphant closer – ‘Optimism Of The Will’; a stunning piece of Axelrod and Shadow-inspired psyche to close these memoirs in style and draw a line under Olsher’s own quest for artistic excellence in the face of adversity.
In fact, it’s probably fair to say that, in the wrong hands – or via a less determined mind – this project could easily have crumbled under the weight of its worldwide backdrop and ended up a confused and disparate muddle. But having drawn much strength and inspiration from both inside and out – Olsher instead managed to construct a unique and truly affecting body of work that – may have begun life, soul-searching – but certainly grows up to be quite life-affirming.
Bassically’s ‘Audio Diaries’ is out now via Fossil Sounds. Grab your copy here.