Following the 2014 mixtape Soundtrack to a Death and numerous singles, including a few viral hits, British producer Mura Masa (Alex Crossan) released his self-titled debut album in 2017, when he was all of 21 years old. The release already seems like a virtual greatest-hits compendium, with numerous singles dating back to 2015 included, and it's loaded with guest stars -- everyone from A$AP Rocky to Jamie Lidell to Damon Albarn make appearances. Musically, Crossan's work is a mix of various "future" styles (bass music, trap, house, etc.), and he often combines light, sunny, island-like tones with lovesick, melancholy themes. His production style is expressive and detailed yet a bit restrained, rather than going for over the top maximalism at every opportunity. "Messy Love" opens the album with wavy, offbeat percussive tones (halfway between steel drums and chimes) and hand claps, along with Crossan's own Auto-Tune-drenched vocals. After the requisite choppy vocals form the track's bridge, a watery, bubbly guitar solo brings the track to a close. "Love$ick," easily Crossan's calling card to date, starts off with a bumping hip-hop beat and lyrics by A$AP Rocky, who doesn't quite steal the show. Instead, the track blooms into steel pan drumming and pitched-up vocals pleading "I need you/I want you," leaning hard on the song's sentiment of heartache. Charli XCX provides one of the album's most bubblegummy moments with the thumb piano-laced dance-pop tune "1 Night," but much more affecting is "What If I Go?," featuring Crossan's longtime collaborator (and relative unknown) Bonzai. As with "Love$ick," the heartfelt lyrics build up the song's sentiments, but then she steps out of the way and lets Crossan's sample wizardry provide the emotional climax. "Firefly" is another highlight, with Nao sweetly pleading "Just say yes, I'd rather have everything than nothing at all" over a just-right, not overcooked tropical dance beat. "Second 2 None" is a slow burner featuring Christine and the Queens, starting out slow and shadowy, but occasionally sneak attacking with some Amen breaks. Not every track leaves a major impression, but Mura Masa is still a quality effort from an ambitious, inventive producer.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson