As LAVURN, Cassius Select explores his new experimental, introspective side

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While the new album comes under a fresh alias, Lee is no baby in the music industry. A few years after he began producing, he moved to Sydney, Australia, where he discovered dancefloors and the music that fuels them. “During that time Sydney was almost trying to be like what LA was when they were doing the beat scene stuff – like FlyLo and Brainfeeder – and there were lots of club shows happening,” he explains. “A lot of friends of mine were making club music as the time, I hadn’t grown up with any dance music really, and had no idea what dance music was or any of the history and culture behind it, and I was just like ‘I’ll make techno’ because everyone else was making it.”

He began producing under his Cassius Select alias, drawing particularly on music rooted in UK bass music, but with a distinctive, leftfield edge of his own after finding inspiration in Hessle Audio, grime artists like Wiley, and early ’00s hip hop. His 2018 track on London label Hypercolour, ‘They Shook’, is a window into his creative brain – taking a UK funky groove and stripping it to its bare bones, before crunching it through a techno grinder and adding a huge, gunfinger-raising bassline. Other standout releases come on the likes of Banoffee Pies, Accidental Jnr and Unknown to the Unknown.

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The new alias and album depart from that background, taking the music out from the dancefloor and into the home. Gone are thudding, repetitive kick drums, replaced by precisely engineered percussion, glitching sonics, and introspective singing. That idea to switch to vocal-led tracks – in essence a return to those bedroom pop roots – came in 2020, as the pandemic forced lockdowns across the world.

“Like a lot of people I started listening to older stuff, things I used to listen to. Full nostalgia trip – a lot of hip hop, alternative rock from the early 2000s, some nu metal like Deftones stuff, and then definitely trip hop. Like early Portishead – really moody, swaggy but still super emotional.”

It was a particularly reflective time, when on top of the isolation of lockdown, Lee was also going through a breakup. It naturally gave him the push to find his own expression of that energy and rawness found in the music he was listening to. ‘Combat Language’, the seventh track on ‘LAVURN’ sees Lee sample Camelia’s ethereal track ‘everytime’, while singing in deep baritone: “I watch your lips move, but I can’t hear/Baby, I can’t hear/No, I’m not there.”

“Naturally post-breakup time, and COVID, I was allowed to really go into my feelings – the lyrics are just raw and very much like when you’ve just broken up, still unsure about your feelings and you want to get back together,” Lee says. “So I was naturally writing a lot of this stuff, which is weird because it was the first time I used music as a way to express some real things in my life. That happens less so in dance music because it’s less vocal, [and it’s for] other people to have fun.”

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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