Written for and published by whynow, September 2021

“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. A sad cat, rendered cold and withered by the whispers of his past actions.”

The introduction to 2018’s The Girl, The Cat and The Tree seems the only appropriate place to start with Lausse The Cat. Admittedly, one’s choice is narrowed down by the fact it’s his only album to date, and that, tragically, it seems increasingly possible it’s the only album he’ll ever release. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to begin anywhere else; for this narration kickstarts an album so unwaveringly honest and introspective that it tells a listener more far about Lausse The Cat that any interview or anecdote ever could. It is the perfect way to meet our feline protagonist.

Lausse’s true identity is unknown. Internet sources claim he grew up in London, before moving to Leeds – the latter city the site of references in his music – but none of it seems particularly concrete. He presents himself to the world in a cat mask, behind which he transforms into the detached, borderline-debauched black cat known as Lausse.

This particular cat resides willingly in the darkness, lurking in the backstreets of Europe’s metropolises. His social media bios read: Lord of Bins, Prince of Cats. The mystery of Lausse deepens further, when you find he’s as capable of delivering intricate rhymes in French as he is English. Two of his most popular songs, Belle Bouteille and Coco Chanel, feature full-fledged verses in French, the wordplay and lyrical dexterity still evident even if its meaning is harder to ascertain for an English speaking listener.

Initially making a name for himself on Soundcloud, The Girl, The Cat and The Tree was Lausse’s official debut. Across it,the (predominantly?) British MC paints a picture of irreverence and a profound dejection. Jazzy, lo-fi beats dominate and play host Lausse’s vocals, where the wilful acceptance of his lifestyle is both entrancing and unnerving. In the album’s opening verse, he raps, “Some would say I fit the symptoms of depressed and alcoholic but a smile’s upon my face when I’m in bed and writing sonnets.”

Two more Lausse singles arrived in September 2018. This remains the last time the cat released music. Redstripe Rhapsody was one of those singles, and is now his most popular song. Though I enjoy all of Lausse’s music, Redstripe Rhapsody, in particular, is stunning. An 8 minute masterclass, it is staggering in scope, execution and ambition. Pre-empting the hibernation that followed 2018’s flurry of music, it’s a remarkable way for the cat to bow out.

Over the 8 minutes, Lausse tells the story of a night out. Sampling both the titular hook from Tyler the Creator’s 911/Call Me Sometime, and part of the instrumental from Justice Der’s guitar cover of Drake’s Passionfruit, Redstripe Rhapsody is packed further still with subtle ad-libs and interludes, including a spoken-word verse from Lausse’s frequent collaborator, B-ahwe. Though bookended by two characteristically downbeat verses, the production, conducted by Lausse himself, is more energetic than usual. In the middle, Redstripe Rhapsody builds into a house-inspired head nodder, before transitioning through the Tyler hook yet again, to a final, hypnotic verse from Lausse.

“Sunshine come kiss closed eyelids,” he begins, signifying morning. “Meanwhile my iris; eyes up a curved spine laid down beside me; Curves like the lines from a sand based minute; Tins from the last night made me feel withered; So I slow slip closer to this fair mistress.” It is a verse that you feel compelled to read after listening, a testament to his penmanship. “Curves like the lines from a sand based minute”…

But since 2018, it’s not just been the music that’s dried up. Lausse has not performed or posted on social media in the three year since. He’s seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. On top of his already reclusive nature, his ‘disappearance’ has furthered the folklore surrounding the mystical cat, and inspired a wealth of internet conjecture. Reddit threads, YouTube comment sections and Twitter feeds host fan theories and discussions as to his whereabouts.

On these internet forums, the small digital traces Lausse has left since 2018 are tracked down. The most notable, an annotation to the Genius page of Redstripe Rhapsody in January 2020, attaching the YouTube link to MF DOOM’s track Let Me Listen to help explain the opening of Lausse’s first verse. “Bump and grind to a DOOM song, Talking of skunk and cess” he says, – skunk and cess being a direct quote from the Supervillain himself.

It’s hardly a surprise that Lausse is inspired by DOOM. They share the obvious trait of the mask and the mystique that comes with performing through an alter ego. Both explore wordplay, self-examination and debauchery in their music, and both have been intent on forging their careers on their own terms.

Whether or not Lausse will ever be able to ever obtain the immortal status of DOOM remains to be seen. Some, I imagine, would consider me even posing the question sacrilege, but the parallels are there, and they are deeper than simply style and anonymity.

In a world where short-term notoriety seems to be increasingly prioritised over long term influence, the patience and humility of these artists becomes all the more special. Music that creates its own path and forces the listener to think must be savoured.

I sincerely hope a day will come when Lausse chooses to leave whichever alleyway he’s lurking in. Whether or not it does, we must appreciate an artist sailing so profoundly against the sea.

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