Alex Crossan, the British born producer, DJ, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, better known by his stage name Mura Masa, produces music spanning several genres including trap, electronica, hip hop, R&B, funk, and future bass.
Mura Masa released his first self-titled LP on July 14, 2017 under a combination of labels and their respective branches – Universal Music, Polydor, Interscope, Downtown, and Anchor Point.
The now 21-year-old grew up playing guitar, bass, drums, and singing in indie bands in his hometown of Castel in Guernsey. After discovering the production software Ableton Live, he began experimenting with trap music and delved into digital production. Other users of the music-sequencing program with comparable timbres to Crossan are: James Blake, Flying Lotus, Daft Punk, and Imogen Heap.
Mura Masa has the ability to generate everything from haunting atmospheres to tropical house beats and remains proud of his “Bedroom DJ” origins. The etymology of his artistic name / alias, is derivative of Muramasa Sengo, the Japanese sword-smith: highly appropriate considering Crossan’s start in music production incorporated chopping and screwing tracks in addition to exposing his original compositions.
The second single released from the Mura Masa LP was “Love$ick” featuring A$AP Rocky. The track became public on September 30, 2016, with the accompanying music video being released months later on November 3. The steel-drummed collaboration re-release reached number one on Spotify in both the UK and the US earning Mura Masa a lot of mainstream attention.
Originally titled “Lovesick F**k“, the track constituted part of Mura Masa’s debút EP Someday Somewhere. Solely instrumental, with the exception of digitalised vocals on the bridge, the track was later transformed into the song “Love$ick” – the “twisted-pop, calypso, hip hop dance track” (featuring A$AP Rocky), most listeners recognise and love.
Leaving his characteristically dark textured polyphony behind for the opening track, “Messy Love” showcases Crossan’s talent and introduces listeners to the tropical theme that is scattered throughout the LP. Commencing with the familiar sound of digitalised steel drums, and the less familiar sound of water bubbles being formed, the track then breaks into full swing, hosting a funk-inspired bassline, pentatonic runs, and syncopated polyrhythms.
The album features both melodically Oriental ornamentation and tropical instrumentation throughout. These aural themes are most notably heard in “Give Me The Ground“, “NOTHING ELSE!” (featuring Jamie Lidell), “Second 2 None” (featuring Christine And The Queens), and “What If I Go?” (featuring Bonzai).
The latter was released as a single for the LP and the video is representative of the Mura Masa aesthetic to a T. Witness how the visuals consisting of grainy and highly saturated pictures, and Oriental iconography compare between Mura Masa’s website and the music video for “What If I Go?”
The track that is predicted to be the most undervalued, overlooked, and underrated is “Who Is It Gonna B” featuring A. K. Paul. Crossan recently praised the Paul brothers and their “approach to production and how they sonically structure music” stating that it is an inspiration for his songwriting and producing.
Considering that the Mura Masa LP aligns thematically for the most part and that the recurring chord progressions and melodic intervals link the tracks, the penultimate song (“Who Is It Gonna B“) structurally stands out as being quirkier than was sonically intended to be by mere default.
Gentle drumming and the sound of raindrops hitting a glass window/ceiling invite the listener to ease into the track. Crescendo-ing into the drop of the song, we are pleasantly surprised when instead of another tropical house anthem, we hear garage/dubstep inspired timbres with the fourth beat of each bar being emphasised.
As well as A$AP Rocky, A. K. Paul, the LP also hosts vocals from Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens, Desiigner, Damon Albarn, Jamie Lidell, and NAO. Within the eclectic melting pot, it is commendable that Mura Masa managed to create such a unified album sound.
You can expect to hear all the tracks off this 2017 project during his European tour around the UK (in addition to a handful of capital cities around mainland Europe), in October and November. However, until then, make sure to support Alex Crossan and his creativity by purchasing and streaming the Mura Masa LP on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon.
Words by Olga Maher