Album Review: Mura Masa - 'R.Y.C.'

Mura Masa pines for freedom, inspiration and escape from the paralysis of youth on ‘R.Y.C.’

Alex Crossan, known as Mura Masa, has proved himself a mogul for capturing a mood, particularly among his own generation. His new album - released 17th Jan - Raw Youth Collage (styled as R.Y.C.) is a nostalgic pastiche: youth frustrations, memories and moments, sewn within a guitar-led landscape and pretty synth melodies.

"Crossan's voice speaks as if we're looking back ten or fifteen years."

Raw Youth Collage, track one on the album, is perfectly situated as the opener. A circling steady guitar, which melts into a waving synth as it progresses, takes us on a journey through Crossan's stream of consciousness - you can't tell if you're facing backwards or forwards on this train of thought. There's a reminder of long summers, the hottest days; they're something that we've only just become accustomed to here in the UK, but Crossan's voice speaks as if we're looking back ten or fifteen years. It's a strange feeling that makes time subtly collapse beneath the listener. I'm not sure how he's done it: it's subliminally hypnotic.

Followed by No Hope Generation, Crossan captures the album's pastiche with an indie rock, pop-punk vibe, continued through into the previously released I Don't Think I Can Do This Again. It'll coax a gentle head-bang out of you, almost echoing 2007 pop punk; he has resurrected a sound that wavered out after Metro Station, and refreshed it perfectly for the turn of the decade.

meeting at an oak tree recites a gentle anecdote of youthful mishap, ending with two instructions: I won't say for who, or what they are. It's not my story to tell. It's a delicate break, reminding of the album's ode to the warmth of nostalgia.

"R.Y.C. has truly brought Crossan into his own limelight."

We're thrown next into a complete opposite – the hurled forward Deal Wiv It is the ultimate diss track to the modern day, and when Slowthai is involved you know you're in for some ground-level shithousery. After a previous collaboration on explosive track Doorman, Slowthai proves that if there's anyone capable of marrying Mura Masa's lucid beats with gritty angst, it's him. He might be Crossan's perfect partner. They're here calling out social paralysis, gentrification, boring mates and crap phone batteries, against the background of a pit-inducing banger.

vicarious living anthem explodes with anguish, over addictive hooks and angsty riffs - Crossan is longing for change akin to a teenager bursting with post-argument adrenaline in his bedroom, radiating his feelings into his guitar. The same energy patterns into In My Mind - it's songs like this that create the collage Crossan has envisioned. It could be dream-inducing, a glittering, sleepy synth.

Crossan's mastery of pace exudes in Today, with layered vocals by Tirzah. The melodic guitar oversees a lyrical fixation of holding onto the present. Laced with a fried, trilling bass, there's a lo-fi feel which envelopes Tirzah's warbling - it's quietly heart-breaking. The mood lifts in Live Like We're Dancing providing a well-deserved dance track and a briefly buoyant moment to represent the good times.

"Amidst a stormy social climate, it's a credit to Crossan's flexibility to bring both rebelliousness and reflection, which at times proves quite stunning."

Teenage Headache Dreams serves one of the most powerful moments on the album, and demonstrates perhaps one of Crossan's strongest pairings to date: with Wolf Alice's Ellie Roswell. Chased by a racing beat, Rowsell's airy vocals layered with Crossan's entangle with softly plucked bass before blossoming into a final, euphoric crescendo. A break in the instrumental where Crossan's voice, warped and thick with emotion, ponders hindsight and uncertainty once again. His words, 'You'll look back fondly, I promise', are rich in both comfort and anguish - you can't help but hope he's speaking the truth. These are the last voices we hear before we're escorted out of memory lane and into a gentle guitar instrumental to draw the journey to a soft close on (nocturne for strings and a conversation).

Image courtesy of Mura Masa

R.Y.C. has truly brought Crossan into his own limelight. From a heavily-collaborated debut album (with all but two songs featuring a guest vocalist), to a 50:50 split between his own vocals and collaborations, it feels like a step closer to Crossan owning his alias and following his own hindsight-charged agenda. Amidst a stormy social climate, it's a credit to Crossan's flexibility to bring both rebelliousness and reflection, which at times proves quite stunning. All this, and still upholding his status as the king of electronic collaboration.

As Deal Wiv It concludes ‘Life is hard but it's quite exciting’ - and 2020 looks a little more than ‘quite exciting’ for the Guernsey-born producer.