After a decade of helping others, Cassian’s time for the spotlight has come
With an imprint on Australian electronic music stretching across its biggest stars, 2020 is the year Cassian enters the spotlight - at last.
Header image by Tay Kaka, from our Rose Avenue Records feature.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the name Cassian, you’ve probably come across something he’s worked on in the past. Over the space of a decade and a half, Cassian’s imprint on Australian electronic music has come to stretch across its biggest stars, in roles that range from being a producer, mixing engineer, songwriter or just someone who’s constantly supporting and elevating others, doing what he can to ensure Australian electronic’s status as a somewhat niche pocket of uniqueness in a world where everyone else is doing the same-same things.
In the beginning, his time came as a Sydney DJ, in a time where the city’s club culture was proving transformative for Australian dance music. He’d often play in the same clubs as now-heavyweights like Alison Wonderland, What So Not and Hayden James (together, with mutual friends, they’d run a regular club party called Kacid) defining the future of Australian dance music at a time where it was coming off a rise in popularity thanks to the Modular explosion of the mid-2000s, through acts such as Bag Raiders and Cut Copy. From the get-go, Cassian wasn’t so much a gate-keeper for dance music as he was a gate-opener; someone constantly on the search of something distinctly new - something that still defines his work, albeit in a different way, all this time later.
Soon after, Cassian would become a name synonymous with the early-2010s of Australian dance music culture. He’d be tapped for influential, dance music discovery tours like Nina Las Vegas’ club-touring series - which would also unearth and highlight names including Flume - and begin releasing his own music under some of the scene’s most influential labels: Bang Gang Records, New York institution Nurvous Records. He was - and still is - someone constantly at the forefront of what’s next, what’s fresh, what’s new. Similarly, when someone else was in search of the same - “Who are you keeping an eye on in dance music?” - the answer would always be Cassian.
Between then and now, much of Cassian’s work would come through elevating others, and allowing Australian dance music to turn into the internationally-spanning heavyweight it’s now often regarded as. He’d help bring songs like Flight Facilities’ timeless Crave You to the club world through his expertise in remixing, which would also grace releases from Miami Horror and RAC in a similar time period. At the same time, through the process of intricately fine-tuning his own work, Cassian would grow a skillset as a mixer and sound engineer, and would lend his Midas touch to some of Australia’s most influential dance records.
For much of the next few years, it would be in this mix of roles - a mixer, sound engineer and producer - that Cassian’s expertise would shine. He’d help RÜFÜS DU SOL (then without the DU SOL tag) finely-detail their brilliant debut album Atlas, carving a relationship that’d come to be one of Cassian’s most fruitful. When RÜFÜS DU SOL launched their own record label - the dance-centric Rose Avenue Records - Cassian would prove a defining member, not just through his own solo work (which we’ll get to in a second), but through his work with the label’s other members: RÜFÜS DU SOL themselves in their later records, and Lastlings, a duo on the road to a debut record of their own. As Hayden James emerged with his drip-feeding of singles that’d eventually make him a household name in Australian dance-pop, Cassian was helping his every move, allowing Hayden James’ expertise in songwriting and production shine the best it could. What So Not the same with his debut record, and so, so, so many more Australian dance musicians beyond them.
However, now it’s Cassian’s time to shine. With the arrival of a debut album of his own today, Cassian’s coming full circle - and it’s something worth celebrating. Across the span of nine tracks, the history of Cassian’s work in dance music gradually unveils itself in a way that leaves him in the centre spotlight for the first time; his learnings and evolution over years of being an influential name core to Australian dance music finally coming together, and wielding incredible results.
Navigating a story of relationships, Laps - Cassian’s debut album, arriving through Rose Avenue Records - is as intimate and personal as it is dancefloor-ready. Its first half feels like a nod to the musicians he’s helped carve careers with, with the euphoric dance-pop of Magical - which features Crooked Colours frontman Phil Slabber - and soothing grooves of Same Things placing an emphasis on this hook-rooted brand of dance music that’s become synonymous with so many musicians Cassian has helped elevate in the past: RUFUS DU SOL and Hayden James especially. However, Cassian explores this pocket of dance music in his own way, building upon sounds to take things to the next level, if he’s not helping build the sound itself.
The album’s second half, however, showcases another side of Cassian. While the first half moves with technical brilliance and subtle pop commercialism, its second half is a love letter to the dancefloor that defined Cassian’s earliest moves, and an exploration the sweat-glistening, disco ball-lit clubs that began his whole journey. Lafayette is a clapping journey condensed into three-minutes-forty of spiralling, layered house music; Open Up plays with subtle vocal samples in a similar vein to the club weapons you’d find throughout the dance music mid-2000s, while Laps - the long-sprawling, album-ending masterpiece - is a closure moment in more ways than one; the end of an album, but also the end of a chapter, and a new one beginning to open.
After so long, Cassian’s time for the spotlight has arrived. Now, let’s make sure to celebrate it the same way we’ve celebrated the many albums he’s helped make as perfect as his own. Dive into Laps below:
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