CASSI (ft. Luna Ward)
That High is available at:
29th August, 2016
Drum and Bass
EVERY time a new musician or artist comes my way it...
provides an opportunity to look at new genres and considerations. Such is the case today with my featured artist - but before I come to her - I wanted to look at Drum and Bass (the genre CASSI plays in); young, upcoming artists/producers and the true power of music and creativity. I feel, when we hear the words ‘Drum’ and ‘Bass’, a certain misconception come crop up. We all, not me though, feel a certain heaviness and lack of tactility to the music – compositions and vocals that suffer a surfeit of necessary restraint and are primarily geared to the late-night club revelers. Whilst Drum and Bass does have that tribal power and is intended to unify the dance-floor revelers: it is a more sophisticated and multi-layered genre and is as accessible and variegated as any other you care to mention. Having grown up lionising the Dance music of the late-‘80s and early-‘90s – where Snap! and Culture Beat were considered quite hip – I have seen it mutate, evolve and mature in a way I couldn’t have predicted back then. Perhaps the '90s Dance/Trance music was a bit more esteemed and long-lasting than a lot of contemporary equivalencies: that is not to say some future-classic artists are not playing in our midst. Drum and Bass has the unerring power to get the listener hooked, baited and entranced in a world of fantastical beats, stridulating electronics and a psychotropic mood – far too heady for the senses to resist. One of the reasons (among many) I open my mind to music’s power is just what we choose to ignore – like a child turning their nose up at food they’ve never tried. You cannot approach a genre and think you have it figured out. If you have heard a rather savage and violent song: that does not represent and embody the true sound of Drum and Bass. The same goes for the likes of Metal, Country, and Soul – there is no such thing as a ‘typical sound’. What Drum and Bass provides, that is not as immediately true of other sounds, is how developed and complicated it is. We all assume, because it's technology-based and digitally-formed, it is a case of pressing a few buttons and twiddling faders – something of that sort anyway. An awful lot of care, thought and consideration go into the genre: it is reserved for those with true passion, expertise, and patience. It would be all-too-easy to fuse together some vaguely pleasing strands and think the club-dwelling public will lap it up – those with a lack of discernment might. The same with regards any style of music: you rush into it and you can create something messy, hurried and wanton.
2015 Drum and Bass classics like Diversified (Tantrum Desire), Next Generation’s Bensley and City of Gold by The Prototypes have been lauded and cannonised by the likes of Drum and Bass HQ. A cursory exploration of those albums shows you just how much emotion, skill, and talent is required. A lot of the time – but not always – the music has to rely on composition alone: modern-day Classical arias that have to win the crowd without a single word sung. My general point is that there are too many stuffy-nose-turners that balk at Drum and Bass because they have clichéd definitions – without investigating it sufficiently. Still regarded as a niche genre and something largely confined to clubs and bars: it will not be long until it receives greater representation in the mainstream. We are seeing acts like Sigma, Noisia and Chase & Status well-regarded and received by many of the mainstream’s best stations and publications. In terms of the new crop coming through: there is much promise and fascination on display. CASSI is the moniker of Surrey-based producer Louise Vineeta. That High is the debut offering from CASSI and shows what a force she is: just how prosperous the future will be. It is hard to truly predict an artist’s trajectory from a single cut but the signs are all very positive – a young talent who is highly capable of making waves in the mainstream (in years to come). Before I continue to another point; let me fully introduce CASSI to you (in her own words):
CASSI is a thought-provoking and assured producer/artist who is proving why we should not be so beholden to chart-approved music. As I stated a little while back: write-off or overlook Drum and Bass and you are liable to miss out on so much. Away from the tribalism; overly-hedonistic producers that can come off one-minded: CASSI is an example of someone who can create accessibility and intelligent music whilst remaining true to the demands of the Drum and Bass aficionados. That is no mean feat and not something that has arrived through serendipity and dumb luck. Upcoming Drum and Bass/Dance producers Mania and Next State are contemporaries of CASSI: similarly ambitious and assured producers who are, in their own campaigns and ways, likely to put their stamp on music down the line. Drum and Bass, like other genres, is not confined to the cities: it has popularity and patrons around the world and is one of the most amendable, transportable and wide-ranging forms of music in the world. CASSI is based in Surrey and is in the heart of a busy and vibrant music community. In a town (Guildford) that houses A.C.M. (The Academy of Contemporary Music) Boileroom and G. Live: it is not a shock that the conviviality, creativity, and variegation of Surrey (Guildford especially) has affected CASSI. With music become more expensive and less attainable for bright-eyed hopefuls: more and more producers and artists are turning to bedroom-made, D.I.Y. sounds. You do not need a lavish studio and exclusive technology to create music of the highest order – the spark of inspiration, discipline and passion are the most important tools (and free from charge). So much attention is paid to mainstream bands and critical favourites: those acts that preen and pout from magazine spreads with needless hubris and self-assurance. Producers like CASSI are true artists that do not seek glamour, column inches or the nods of record executives – she is someone who burns with the desire to create fine music and get her passion onto the page. Vibing and conspiring with the creative community and peers: it has provided a basis for CASSI and her debut, That High. Knowing her, and the work that went into the song, it is a singular triumph from a producer who has consecrated so much time and energy to music – ensuring it as good as it can be before dissemination to public ears. That quality control and patience has paid dividends and ensured That High is a banger: a song that is sure to find affection and support beyond the realms of social media and music-sharing platforms.
Knowing CASSI’s creative process and what songs might be released in the future: it got me thinking about inspirations behind music. Drums and Bass, again there is a stereotype, is not just concerned with excess, sweat, and libidinous, prurient obsessions. Even the compositions, as hard-edged and pulsating as they are, are a lot more nuanced and deep than that – never simple-minded and basic. That High is a mantra-like, head-swimming song whose chorus line builds a number of possibilities and origins – a simple paen to a lover or feeling of something else. Unlike other genres: Drum and Bass artists address deeper concerns and societal problems. I have seen artists (in Drum and Bass) document class imbalance, urban squalor and political tyranny – the stress and disenfranchisement that the young feel today. Expand that out, and everything from mental health struggles and tragedy has been represented through the lens of Drum and Bass. If one educates oneself more about genres like this: you find it is much more complicated and perspicacious than is perceived. CASSI is a producer who will go on to prove that point and use her platform as a chance to address issues away from love and euphoria: common themes that many of her peers document. That High is her debut song and an accessible and anthemic slice that announces a special talent – one who intends on making music for a long time to come.
It is at this point of a review I usually compare an artist’s previous work with current: charting their evolution and deciphering whether any changes have occurred. Of course, this being CASSI’s opening salvo; it makes that a little harder. What I can say and do know – without giving anything away – is that more music will come and is likely to be met with acclaim and huge affection. Few artists and producers charge out the gate as hot and assured – even those in Drum and Bass. I have reviewed a lot of debut-era acts that are kitten-like and anxious on their first track. Some impress and create a sense of personality: it can be tough deciding which artists will make it and which won’t. Luckily, it seems CASSI is fully ready for the demands of music and ensures her debut track is instant and addictive. It will be interesting to see what the next few months hold in store and how she develops. I know CASSI is releasing an E.P. soon that is going to contain another version of That High - other snapshots into her creative mind. Momentum, impression, and intention have been laid down, and with it, an insight into a fresh and hungry producer who can add her unique voice and artistry into the Drum and Bass oeuvre.
Ghostly, balletic high-noted electronics open That High up. Part-cosmic, part-mystical: it is an eerie and earth-orbiting sound that prepares the listener and builds fascination right away. Oddly, there is something romantic and seductive to be found in the opening seconds. Rather than rushing in hard or needlessly build up: That High has instant effectiveness but does so with subtlety and the things it does not say – allowing the listener to come to their own impressions and look between the notes. Befitting of a film score: one that could open a tense and nervy flick: there is a certain sense of danger and rush that is lingering. You sense something big is about to happen and the tension and sweat is almost palpable. As I say: there is a counterbalance of affection and gentility in the opening passage; ensuring it is hard to second-guess and come to easy predictions. By the 10-second mark, a far-off, spectral vocal floats and echoes in the background. “That high” is delivered almost as a coda or truth: it does not need any fleshing-out and seems to be a complete thought; a truth that is yet to be revealed. Any thoughts That High would remain calming and relaxed is erased within a few seconds. Warping, growling electronics add darkness, shade, and teeth to the song: it is not too vicious but a definite authority and jeopardy is introduced. The beats get harder and demonic – like a bad vision that keeps coming to the mind – but when joined with the vocal the song takes on a new light. Rather than being hardened and attacking (that remains) but a sensuality, heat, and sexiness comes out. Given the song’s title and the possibilities of the words: your perspectives change to ideas of romance, coming-together, and a certain recklessness. Whether a free-from-shackles celebration or declaration of a pure love: with every mounting projection (of the words “That high”) the song grows fuller and more meaningful. Few producers or artists are able to repeat and reintroduce a vocal line or chorus whilst keeping it engaging, fresh and unpredictable. Part of your mind is fixed on the composition which creates its own gravity and colours; the other looks at the vocal which is lost in a state of delirium and trance. Coming together; the overall effect is quite something.
Organically and freely, That High starts to accelerate and smooth out. The foreboding and dark-hewn electronics subside and the beats start to race and trot; the vocal comes fully into the light and it is almost like waking from a dream – or perhaps a nightmare, depending on your take. “It’s all about that high” is a line that, one would imagine, has quite obvious and carnal origins. Provided what has come before and the inscrutable nature of the song so far – you do wonder if it is obvious as that. Of course, CASSI knows the true inspiration behind the lyrics but one still suspects that a) something positive and affirmative is being exposed and b) it is either based in the heart or the club – submitting to the serotonin-release bliss of the music or the knee-bucking touch of a lover. Whichever camp your mind is in so far: it does not quite prepare you for the unleash and release that is to follow. Just after the one-minute mark, once again, That High starts to shift up another gear and accelerate. Ward’s vocal remains concentrated and focused on that single thought – you wonder who/what is being sung about and imagine all sorts of possibilities and variations. In my mind, however near the mark it might be, I was looking at two sweethearts/friends in the club and bonded by the music. Surrounded by others yet joined in one another’s arms: something free and liberating. With that being considered, there is the suspicion something deeper and purer is being described. It might be cheating, but CASSI herself states it is (the inspiration) the pure pleasure and nourishment of music that is in her mind – the listener is free to decide upon their own interpretation. That reflection and revelation become clearer as the song progresses and the composition-vocal combination more spiraled and tangled. The vocal is peppering, stuttered and intoxicating; the composition introduces every proceeding variation into a dizzying whole. Rather than focusing purely on a physical unity or a club-set throng: it becomes less physical and more spiritual. That High works because of the mix of simplicity and complexity. The lyrics are simple and centered around that gravity: the power and vitality music provides; the undeniable high and satisfaction it gives the soul. Most singers might look at the page and not be able to eek necessary nuance, range, and emotion from those words. Credit to Ward (and CASSI’s production notes) that the vocal finds new space and possibilities; brings new life and spirit from the words. Ward’s vocals are never too intense or insincere: able to perfectly deliver that message of devotion and affirmation whilst projecting ample sexiness, rawness, and soul. CASSI does not needlessly distill or process the vocal and keeps it natural and unblemished: simply tweaking and repeating it; creating a rollercoaster (sure there is a better word) of emotions – perhaps embodying the unpredictability of music’s essence and how it affects different parts of the body. Not content to simply ride it out to the finish: CASSI ensures fascination and attention is held to the very end. Rather than fading down or keeping the same pace: That High starts to calm and restrain. That is perhaps indicative or a lack of energy – music has had that very physical effect – but you sense the pull and allure of music have completely ravaged and obsessed the heart and soul – this is the result of it.
That High is not simply about the pure joy of music but the release and freedom music-making have provided CASSI. She has faced trials and stresses and had some uncertain times in life – music has been a way to help channel fears into something positive and productive. Often, we can get buried under life’s strains and demands: never quite know how to cope and portion the burden out without harming ourselves. Music is a forum that anyone can turn to and asks for nothing but dedication in return. The possibilities, avenues and potential one can get from music is limitless – that determination to exploit every nook and hook is infectious and all-consuming. That High also looks at life’s highs and the satisfaction and safety from a true love and solid friendships. Knowing the people around CASSI – her boyfriend Mania is a D.J. and producer; Next State is a close friend – that can help make life a lot more positive and easy. All of these thanks, considerations and positives go into That High - that will connect and be understood by the listener. Few producers or artists concentrate on pleasures and the positivity of music/life. A lot of songs/artists focus on relationship perils and break-up; self-negativity and something quite angry - it is unusual discovering someone who wants to embrace and pay tribute to the powers and spiritual nature of music, life and love. Future CASSI work is likely to mix in some negative and darker elements in but that is natural for all artists. By starting out upbeat, positive and uplifted: That High is a song that wins you over on many fronts – not least the important and relevance the lyrics have on its author. A stunning and compelling song from a producer who has plenty of inspiration and stories: she has come into the music with a huge and strong statement that will win many fans.
I, for one, have never been too sure just which artists will emerge victorious and prominent from this year. It may say strange for a journalist to confess such a thing but it is understandable. We are exposed to so much music and that is a good thing. It is always brilliant having easy access to all kind of bands, sounds, and genres. The issue arises when trying to make predictions about the future. You might discover an artist that seems like they have the tools to succeed and the energy to keep pressing on – before long they have fallen or fatigued. Perhaps it is the demands of music or false promise: either way, it is a tricky thing predicting longevity and those who will reign in years to come. On the other hand, there are enough musicians and artists you just know who have the legs, talent, and originality to take it all the way. CASSI is a brand-new name to music and ensuring the Drum and Bass world – beyond the local borders – knows about it. Of course, we can race ahead and make proclamations but she will want to stay focused and grounded. It is all-too-easy promulgating an artist and putting a burden of expectation on their shoulder. CASSI has proven on That High she is a producer and artist to be taken seriously - she is fully committed to music. It is rare, although maybe not in the underground, to see a female Drum and Bass producer emerge. It may be a sign of imbalance or not enough ready exposure: many still see certain types of music as gender-exclusive. There is little ostracism or prejudice in Drum and Bass but we often associate the genre with men. That is an attitude and perception that should and needs to be changed. When you look at the end-of-year lists from Drum and Bass magazines and sites: a lot of their top-10s or whatever (seem) to be male-dominated. Perhaps it is just a quality decision but one feels like the women of Drum and Bass are not being represented as fervently as they should. It is foolhardy pointing fingers or creating accusations but a sense of familiarity and laziness has crept in. One feels the likes of CASSI will not only bring about reappropriation and discussion but help to promote the fantastic female producers that help make the genre as strong, varied and exceptional as it is.
That High is a song that can convert undecided voters and fence-dwellers who would otherwise skim the surface of Drum and Bass without dipping their toes in. I know there is still a lot of work to be done ensuring the genre is on a level plain with Pop and Rock for instance. That rebalance does not occur overnight but I am starting to see positive changes and reapportionment occurring. Away from mainstream stars like Chase & Status, there is a vanguard of nimble and exceptional producers that are gathering acclaim and praise. The sun is out and it is hot out: there is a time and place for the gentler side of music but one yearns for something that reflects the season. The summer is not through, so woe betide anyone who speaks idly of autumn and shorter days. We used to go to Rock musicians for excitement and those scintillating jams. I feel the tide has shifted and too many bands are becoming sanitised and tame. Step forward those who understand how important forceful, body-moving music is – an elemental and primeval desire that has been coded into D.N.A. since the dawning of time. Artists, producers, and musicians that are capable of creating bangers and jams – songs that unify crowds and eradicate bad moods – should be applauded. That High is a tsunami of joy that is fully able to get the clubs bouncing and sweating but that would be doing the song a disservice. It goes back to my early point of easy labeling in Drum and Bass. The finest and most promising producers expend time and huge energy ensuring their songs are appropriately nuanced and deep – not just one-dimensional songs that are easily disposable. My early points looked at young producers and how Drum and Bass is not centralised to the cities – it is inherent in any town or place that has a nightclub; throughout bars and venues across the land. Given the popularity and necessity to embrace a more cost-effective form of recording: we are going to see genres like Drum and Bass rise in popularity. CASSI has spent a long time working on her debut song and you can hear that dedication and tireless pursuit come out in every note. A head-rush that gets into the brain and rearranges the senses – the body and limbs unable to resist movement; the voice ringing and singing along to the song’s chorus. Kudos must go to Luna Ward who brings gravel, guts and power to That High. At times spectral and distant; at others up-front and intense: a passionate and perfect performance that brings every possible emotion and shade from the lyrics and composition. Let’s hope CASSI and Ward collaborates in future as it seems like a very natural and promising partnership. I will end by looking at CASSI’s future and how she will slot into the market.
It has been wonderful not only hearing an incredible debut song but learning more about Drum and Bass – a genre I have not spend a lot of time around. CASSI resides in Surrey and has a prestigious and impressive musical network around her - about to enter A.C.M. very soon. She has the support and backing of friends, peers, and musicians but That High is a singular vision and unique perspective from a producer we should follow closely. There are few things harder and more nerve-wracking than taking your first steps into music and finding your feet – it can be an excruciating experience that has seen many quit. CASSI has that inborn love of music and it will not be too long before we get to see her debut E.P. - that will be exciting to see. Free from nerves, weak moments or any loose ends: That High has been leant a lot of consideration and focus: the results are obvious and immediate. Ensure you take time out to listen to CASSI and see just where she is heading. On the evidence of debut track That High shows: she has…
PLENTY more to say.