In a galaxy far away, a dormant musical talent stirs on an isolated island, thirsty for creative inspiration. He plays in a handful of bands, but finds his world opened up by the Internet instead, taking on the name of an iconic Japanese swordsmith in the process. He hones a sound that manages to blend bedroom pop with a global palette, where texturised flutes and strings mix with sleek synths and vocal samples chopped and distorted beyond recognition. In short, the origin story of Guernsey’s Mura Masa sounds sort of like the far-fetched fable of how an electronic music superhero might emerge.
Now living in London, Alex Crossan is putting the finishing touches – or, as he describes it, “doing the Rick Rubin ‘Yeezus’ thing” - on full-length debut, ‘To Fall Out of Love To’. It promises to expand on the rich textures and dynamite that fuelled 2015’s mesmerising ‘Someday Somewhere’ EP; which featured fellow U.K. upstarts Nao and Jay Prince, and also showcases Alex’s unique ability to inject dashes of live instrumentation into his dense compositions.
“I think it comes out of an appreciation for live music,” he reasons. “I grew up playing in quite a few bands. I started from that point before I crossed over to the production side. It was kind of intentional as well, there were a few threads I picked to focus on,” he adds, “Japanese culture, hip hop, real instrumentation and samples, manipulation.”
The 20-year-old producer’s profile has risen exponentially in just a few years. He describes some of his early work as “more instant-grat type music-making’ (though even his ‘bangers’ sound more suited for quiet reflection rather than, say, an EDM festival), but Mura Masa has quickly established himself as a first-rate writer and musical sidekick. Today, he stresses the importance of flexibility and being able to adapt to a collaborator’s style, whether that’s exchanging emails with Jay Prince to craft the menacing ‘Low,’ or sitting for hours in Shura’s bedroom for their tender collaboration ‘Love For That’.
‘Love$ick’ (ft. A$AP Rocky)
“People yearn for that lonely bedroom sound, that’s why I chose not to upgrade myself.”
In the case of ‘Love$ick’ - the A$AP Rocky-bolstered remix of his single ‘Lovesick’ - Mura Masa’s malleability manifested itself in a speedy Abbey Road recording session during the handful of hours Rocky had available in London.
“The first thing he said was that it made him feel really tropical, like he was in Ibiza or something and I was like, ‘OK let’s roll with that,’” he remembers. “But then I said to him that it was about being stupid and feeling lovesick and hanging over a girl and he brought that to it as well,” Crossan says. “It was super fun, we hung out, smoked cigarettes, talked about fashion and Tame Impala.”
Despite the raised stakes, Alex has stayed true to his roots as he works on his debut. He rarely writes in studios, preferring to develop his tunes in the nooks and crevices between actual recording. “The studio is hailed as the place where music gets created but really it’s all over the place, it’s in the homes of musicians and on the bus or wherever,” he says. “I feel like people yearn for that lonely bedroom sound, that’s why I chose not to upgrade myself too much for the album.”
Over the past decade, plenty of artists, from Passion Pit to The Weeknd, have emerged from the cozy confines of DIY anonymity upwards, garnering much commercial success but mixed critical reception. Mura Masa’s tracks are capable of being just as massive, but they never lose that sense of intimacy and vulnerability that makes him so refreshing. After all, he’s already brought the sound of the world into his bedroom, so getting a global audience there shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.
Taken from the December 2016 / January 2017 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe below.