A few years ago, Alex Crossan was a nobody, making music in his bedroom under the pseudonym Mura Masa – but today, with cosigns like A$AP Rocky and Stormzy, he’s one of the biggest up-and-comers out there, all the way from local Guernsey punk scenes to a worldwide pop audience. It’s a shame then, that his self-titled debut is little more than a glorified beat-tape. Despite big names ranging from Damon Albarn to Desiigner, Mura Masa is high budget mixtape material that comes out sloppy and unmemorable. It’s certainly well-produced, but there are few tracks here that stand out from the crowd.
As refined as Mura Masa’s production might be, there’s a cleanness and sheen about it that seems to cater to the broadest audiences possible. It’s accessible, most of the time danceable, but below a surface listen, it’s a project with little replay value. For all it’s pop appropriations of that post-dubstep, UK bass sound, Mura Masa fails to deliver – instead we’re treated to a swathe of tropical house tinged dance-pop, a tired and boring trope. Despite the star power on board, this album already feels exhausted and outdated – for a producer predicted to be the future of electronica, Mura Masa sticks close to current trends, reducing his more experimental and progressive natures to but a few small snippets.
This is a project with plenty of ups and downs – A$AP Rocky works wonders on the tropical hip hop of Lovesick, while Damon Albarn drops in for the stellar, slowburning (and very Gorillaz-esque) closer Blu. There’s moments where Mura Masa’s glossy production aesthetics come off beautifully, like on the nu-disco of NOTHING ELSE!, but too often it appears lethargic and lifeless, like Charli XCX’s 1 Night or the awful Desiigner collaboration that is All Around The World. There’s a lot of nice instrumental moments drawing from post-dubstep and UK bass pioneers like James Blake, but for the most part, Mura Masa features a string of repetitive and monotonous pop melodies. Surprisingly, the strange little solo interlude give me The ground is probably the album’s best moment – it might not be cohesive at all, but it’s a beautiful ballad that evokes Bon Iver’s warped folktronica and breaks up the constant barrage of boring songwriting.
Mura Masa’s self titled debut is disappointing, to say the least. There was so much potential, but very little of that potential seems to come out to play on this project. For all of it’s refined production and host of famous faces, this project feels forgettable and uninteresting. It might pass at a party, but it’s background music at best. But with all that pop appeal, Mura Masa is likely to here to stay – this likely isn’t the last we’ll see of this bedroom producer turned pop hitmaker.