On his self-titled debut Alex Crossan aka Mura Masa makes intelligent, sophisticated pop writing seem utterly effortless. He does this by seemingly always making the correct creative decisions whether that’s the choice of collaborator, the length of a song or the minutiae of layering across a bar, a chorus or an entire single. This talent or knack or aptitude or god given gift is present right from opener ‘Messy Love’ into the late stages of the album but is transcendent in conjunction with the immense talent of the contributors.
Despite being her second best appearance on the album, ‘Nuggets’ featuring Bonzai is an early introduction of the joy to come. Its playful, almost silly behaviour is played off wonderfully by the simple bass line, R&B bridges and semi-rap vocals. It rolls perfectly into the steel drum intoxication of ‘Love$ick’ featuring A$AP Rocky, a man who’s either totally engaging or totally dull depending on the occasion. Yet Mura Masa gets the best of him here, a theme of the album as he places each artist outside of their normal sphere but with a structure that plays to their immediate strengths. Just check out ‘1 Night’ featuring Charlie XCX or ‘All Around the World’ featuring Desiigner. Now, depending on your opinion, Charlie’s vocals here are either Gabriel’s trumpet in human form signalling the end of the world or, you know, kind of good. But there’s no doubt that ‘1 Night’ is the kind of collaboration that label execs dream about but rarely accomplish. The same is true of ‘All Around the World’, the most radio of the radio friendly track list, but the best performance from Desiigner since ‘Panda’.
It’s worth taking a break here and just looking at what’s happened. If you’re from a certain generation this may mean little to you but just look at those collaborators. It may be common for an artist usually billed as a Producer/DJ to release a studio album littered with talent but the willingness of artists to work with someone so young speaks volumes for his standing in the industry. And this isn’t even halfway through the album. What follows is a short interlude as Mura Masa leans into the oeuvre of Bon Iver before immediately taking Bonsai and NAO on respective space journeys to the fringes of bouncy, feel good dance à la Passion Pitt. That signals the first on a run of throwbacks; the shoulder swinging eighties-cum-soul with Jamie Lidell and the Kate Bush style beauty of ‘Second 2 None’ with Christine and The Queens. Unfortunately that last track does bring an end to the jaw dropping nature of the album. In an attempt to round it off and slow it down Mura Masa falls into less engaging territory and though the collaborations still work there’s a sense that these songs are less finished and less structured than what proceeds them.
It’s interesting that the very last song in the list features Damon Albarn because where Gorillaz’s last album failed is where Mura Masa succeeds most. There’s no feature here that seems like a weak fit, no song that was hoping to be saved by the talent of another. Mura Masa’s world influenced, sunny, modern song structures stand up to any scrutiny. It’s Pop that feels mature without ever feeling the need to brood or sever itself from its heritage. The album could almost be called “The Redemption of David Guetta” because it takes an era of overblown candy and cocaine summer hits and with temperance and talent turns it into something sleek and wonderful.
It’s hard not to use the genius word with Mura Masa, and perhaps it is a little early, but another album like this and it’ll be hard to hold it back. Eoghain Meakin