In this weekly series, our journalists reappraise a misunderstood record or share their appreciation for an undervalued album that deserves more love. This week: Lausse the Cat's 'The Girl, the Cat and the Tree'.
Every so often, the universe blesses you with an artist who completely blows you away with their music.
Such was the case a few years ago, during my days at university when I chanced upon the enigmatic Lausse the Cat.
It was one of those serendipitous moments on Spotify when a suggested track beckoned me with its intriguing title and cover art. It was called 'Redstripe Rhapsody.'
As the song unfolded, I found myself entranced by this eight-minute opus of lo-fi hip-hop and jazzy grooves, accompanied by the unmistakable cadence of Lausse the Cat’s laidback delivery. It's exactly what I'd been looking for.
Hearing the track felt like a revelation. His introspective lyricism, brimming with clever wordplay and vivid imagery, danced effortlessly atop a backdrop of live production that defied convention. Beat switches, evolving soundscapes, and a sense of sheer inventiveness permeated throughout.
Without hesitation, I dove into the depths of the London-born artist's first and only album, 'The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree’ (released in 2018), which I quickly fell in love with.
Despite the abundance of talent within the UK rap and hip-hop scene, it has long been overshadowed by its US counterpart.
However, in recent years, artists like Stormzy, Dave, Little Simz, and Loyle Carner have finally started to receive the well-deserved critical acclaim they've earned.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe that Lausse the Cat's groundbreaking debut project is still awaiting the recognition it truly merits.
"Gather round boys, girls and children. I have a fable to read to you all. Our story begins on a warm summer's day; in a small tattered town; in a small tattered house, where a small tattered cat resided... mainly in his bed."
'The Girl, the Cat, and the Tree’ is a short yet incredibly expansive project, clocking in at just under 22 minutes.
Stepping into the artistic realm and mystique akin to the legendary MF DOOM, we are introduced to Lausse's alter-ego, who is described as a "sad cat, rendered cold and withered by the whispers of his past actions".
Consumed by hedonistic pursuits, the semi-fictitious feline protagonist navigates a desolate urban world, seeking solace and escape through substance abuse and meaningless sexual encounters.
Through poetic lyricism, immersive soundscapes and fairytale-like narration, we witness the unravelling of his struggles and his desperate quest to find meaning and connection.
"Life in this mess makes a heart numb / I ventured a quest to inspect why my heart's wrong," raps Lausse in the enchanting and melancholic opening track, 'Motor City.'
As the title of the project suggests, we're introduced to not only the cat, but also "the girl" (named Lucy) and an omnipotent tree wizard (whose voice is lent by the talented London-born rapper and instrumentalist Nix Northwest).
Now, I'll refrain from delving further into the intricacies of the narrative as I urge you to take a listen for yourself and form your own interpretations.
Beyond the story and lyrical prowess, the album's production is also excellent. From the grimey, hard-hitting 808s in 'A Cat's Demise' to the evocative strings of 'Interlude' and the laidback, groove-infused lo-fi beat of 'Fuccboi Lullaby,' the project traverses an array of styles, seamlessly blending each track into the next.
Live instrumentation, intricate sound design and the velvety vocal harmonies of frequent collaborator B-ahwe layer the compositions, forming a textured and detailed sonic feast.
The closing track, 'Belle Bouteille', is a true standout. In a surprising twist, Lausse switches it up and delivers a rap verse in French, adding a delightful touch of variety. Notably, the song's hook offers a fitting rendition of Lou Reed's iconic 'Walk on the Wild Side,' paying homage to an artist renowned for his tumultuous life of excess and rebellion.
Despite the album concluding on the tantalising words "To be continued," Lausse has sadly yet to resurface in the music scene, only appearing in a few features and leaving his modest but devoted fanbase yearning for more.
Wrapped in an aura of mystery, little is known about the man behind the music. In rare footage of his old live performances, he graces the stage donning a mask, much like the previously mentioned MF DOOM.
While I would love nothing more than some new material from Lausse the Cat, the enigma surrounding the rapper only adds to the allure and fleeting beauty of the album.
Lausse, if you're reading this, I hope you're doing well my dude and I extend my gratitude for sharing your art with the world.