As of late, producers-turn-pop is the trend and it’s sickening. There’s rarely a chance we see real flavor put forth on a full length where the pop singer/icon doesn’t completely overshadow the track of which they “feature” – take nearly any track from Disclosure’s Caracal, or even Gorillaz’s Humanz. Another severe problem with this format of release is electronic producers aren’t actually doing anything special in their production. The DAW is second nature to so many, and we’re all artists with something to say, so consequentially these artists don’t particularly say anything of note unless you really intend to listen to every detail. Arguably, musicians are in a position to make you listen, and with some appeal/aesthetic at that. Mura Masa isn’t an exception to this, and his debut major release may have a few surprises, even for the most skeptical, but doesn’t surmount the problem.
Alex Crossan as Mura Masa only adds to the pile on his self titled album. Let’s start from the beginning; taking us back over two years ago we receive the promising “Lovesick Fuck,” the bassy, tropical and rather well done production with intricacies. It was intended to make you move, perhaps in simpler a time of internet music in demise, but still true. Well, that was all scraped when A$AP Rocky was recruited as a feature last year in announcement of the full length, not adding anything to the track.
30 million plays on YouTube…
It was only a sign of what was to come. Charli XCX on “1night” is morely just a Charli song circa Tru Romance. Desiigner, perhaps one of the most transiently popular rappers to go mainstream, can only be placed on a trap beat or else runs the risk of sounding completely in the wrong. That resulting beat is Cashmere Cat-meets-literally-anybody. The dated “Firefly” featuring Nao is purely a reaction-response to fans and pop singers yearning for a collab. It was saddening to see and hear the Christine and the Queens feature follow suit 🙁 . All of these can’t be reconciled as anything more than radio dance pop, a creation of habit and presumably monetary potential. This can go on through most of the tracklist.
Until, that is, “Give Me the Ground” comes through to shake things up. Frankly, this is more interesting writing/producing than anything coming out from artists of comparability, exploiting distortion and autotune in a lament that actually makes me believe there’s something to be told. If it didn’t hold so much semblance to Bon Iver’s 22, A Million it would have actually meant something.
The surprises came once or twice more with the groovy and simply, beautifully derived “Helpline” and “Blu”. The prior, featuring the young Tom Tripp, gives the promise of a polished garage band and, in a way, that aesthetic is captured – the rounded bass and clean drum kit sounds, emphasized by chorus synth, bring some life back to the pop. “Blu” exceeds by scoring Damon Albarn for an Imogen Heap experience, bending bass and synth tones that bounce through the song to a climactic end of the album.
The bottom-heavy Mura Masa album should have capitalized more on “Who Is It Gonna B” and “Helpline” and less so on features. The pool of talent, who are indeed greatly established and creative artists, featured on Mura Masa is case and point on when a cook gets too liberal with the spices and ends up ruining the meal. Watering down the tracks a tad proved excellent! Because Mura Masa does indeed have a certain je ne sais quoi and an admittedly refined ear for production, it sometimes takes a realization of knowing when its too much.
Alex Crossan is only twenty one, after all. But it doesn’t distract from that at this stage and notoriety it’s going to take a bit more than intuition and, I guess, networking to capture our attention in full.