Uniting the sides with an electronic sheen, the Guernsey-born producer strikes an improbable balance between high-octane party nous and heartwrenching displays of soul.
Two years on from his impeccable breakout Someday Somewhere EP, much has changed for young Alex Crossan. Although his studio is still a speakerless laptop in his bedroom, his CV boasts a reputation as one of the most versatile electronic artists around, a healthy festival pedigree that’s seen him quietly shimmer through performances at Coachella and Glastonbury (and even his local Wild Life), a pair of self-hosted shows on Beats 1 that have acted as a showcase for his Anchor Point imprint, and an enviable phonebook that reaches from A$AP Rocky to Damon Albarn.
On Mura Masa, his first major label full-length, so prominent are these pals that the names of the 10 who feature adorn its cover alongside an image of Crossan at a 30° tilt whilst looking rather glum. Such an image isn’t necessarily most illustrative of what’s inside: 45 minutes of gleeful hedonism on the theme of love brought to life with his crisp, harp-soaked glue. Its production is dense and effervescent right from opener ‘Messy Love’ – one of only two truly solo ventures alongside the minute-long acoustic prairie interlude ‘give me The ground’ – which establishes the impulsive and passionate tone lyrically (“Take me, break me / Use me for your messy love,” he yearns through a liberal slathering of Auto-Tune) and atmospherically.
Between the swift harp runs, tube announcements, assertive bass guitar, trickling water, and tasteful marimba, his recipe rarely falters, and neither do its vocalists diverge far from his vision to their own. One or two of its instrumental ornamentations do feel a little unnecessary – yes, I am thinking of the airhorn dolloped onto ‘Love$ick,’ A$AP Rocky’s Abbey Road revitalisation to Someday Somewhere’s ‘Lovesick Fuck’ piano/pan/saxophone beat – but the way the record layers parts for rich effect is thoroughly compelling. At times when it is neither exclusively exhibiting warming devotion nor party eccentricity – like recent radio record ‘1 Night,’ the venture with Charli XCX that pours a genuine human longing into a stunning robotic pop shell – the result is tropical without tedium and contemporary without conceit.
At times, a disconnect between the two sides does show – ‘Nuggets’ pairs Bonzai’s musings on potent narcotics with Crossan’s claps and jaunty bass riff, joined at the intro by a slurred YouTube sample comparing the biochemistry of love and cocaine; written by Christine And The Queens over a Bollywood string sample, ‘Second 2 None,’ which Crossan guessed to GQ was a love song, drops with an unnecessary thrust for its resonant, anguished tone – however the stylistic diversity created from the guest performances’ additions to the producer’s box of MIDI tricks makes the record a real treat. Whether it’s coercing Desiigner on ‘All Around The World’ into unintelligibly gibbering over a flute on an ad-lib-laden three minutes of excitement and alien structure, employing a harsher retro synth edge on ‘NOTHING ELSE!’ behind Jamie Lidell’s infatuated strut (“You can take my shit, burn my clothes / I know this is it / Your love’s more precious than gold”), flipping a resounding bird to responsibility and a healthy relationship with NatWest as NAO-signed newcomer Tom Tripp sings the disoriented Breakfast Club shuffle soundtrack of ‘helpline,’ or closing the record by way of ‘Blu,’ a gentle, washy duet with Albarn, Crossan’s work never fails to exquisitely complement those that join it.
Mura Masa is out now via Anchor Point and Polydor