Last Friday a 21-year-old from a small island in the English Channel released the best pop album of the year.
Mura Masa, real name Alex Crossan, has crafted a record that spans the musical world of genre and style, crafting an absolute powerhouse of an album in his studio debut Mura Masa.
At 17, Crossan began uploading remixes and clips to SoundCloud. In the cluttered world of SoundCloud, a lot gets lost in the fray, but Crossan’s unique style and genre-melting production immediately caught the ear and Crossan began to recruit somewhat of a following.
Even his earliest releases, which have been repackaged, remastered, and put on all the less socialistic streaming services, show a distinct style.
Take, for instance, the ringing xylophones and floating synths of “Miss You.” It all sounds slightly Hudson Mohawkian, but instead of that build leading to a face-slapping wall of FUCKIN’ BASS, the drop is almost muted, stylish.
Or the tumbling Japanese flutes on “Lotus Eater.”
It’s rare for such a young producer to have such a distinct style.
Of course there are parallels; Mohawk is one, Jamie XX’s steal drums bear similarities to Crassan’s style, and there’s definitely some first-album Disclosure and Mount Kimbie in his rounded synths, but for the most part Crassan inhabits a space that is very much his own.
Hype began to grow around Mura Masa and the dance music world braced for his full-scale debut.
On that first studio release, previously Crossan had made music in his bedroom with only his laptop, the Guernsey native has teamed up with some of the biggest acts in music across multiple genres.
Instead of leaning on these features, Crossan levitates them to new heights and dimensions.
Those steel drums on “Love$ick” with A$AP Rocky perfectly compliment Rocky’s Harlem drawl.
Charli XCX, one of the biggest voices in pop music right now, is perfectly contained on “1 Night” with Mura Masa’s ringing production.
Crossan even has Gorillaz originator Damon Albarn on his album and manages to use him in an interesting, original way, creating this space age futuristic blues track with Albarn, another British artist that has clashed opposing sounds together.
On Mura Masa, the Guernsey native shows a range of genres and styles that’s pretty astounding.
There’s the new-age funk of “NOTHING ELSE!” with Jamie Lidell.
With A.K. Paul, Crossan crafts the floating, airy ballad “Who Is It Gonna B.”
“Firefly” with London-based singer NAO, which was previously released and is the cause of a good amount of Crassan’s notoriety, uses African thumb pianos and Disclosure synths in equal measure.
It’s fascinating to see a kid, and that is what Crassan is, from a tiny island in between England and France have a sound seemingly drawn from the entire world of music.
Speaking to Rolling Stone earlier this month, Crassan told the magazine that his unique style, “comes from geographical isolation more than anything,”
He went on to say he draws influence from anything and everything he can,
“I chose not to restrict myself in any way when making the record, to take influence from wherever I saw fit, to try and include people from all over. What I try to do as Mura Masa involves any kind of voice. I wouldn’t limit myself to any one genre or person. It could be anyone.”
The internet is a beautiful thing, as Crassan told Rolling Stone,
“Where I grew up, it’s so far-removed and serene and isolated with no underground culture. I had to perceive all music culture through the lens of the internet.”
There can be a sense of culture vulturism when a white British kid uses sounds derived from other regions and genres, but Crassan’s ultra-organic, almost naive discovery of world music feels truly authentic.
As popular dance music’s bubble has burst recently, there’s been a major lack of authenticity and ingenuity. And while I’m all for poptimism it’s safe to say the genre has needed a little fresh breath of air.
Alex Crassan’s Mura Masa is exactly that.