When Calvin Harris picked up a gong at the 2019 BRITs, many people were thrown by his thick Scottish accent - “I didn’t even know he was Scottish,” wrote more than one viewer. Producers and DJs can often enjoy careers whilst retaining a slither of anonymity unlike the singers and rappers up front, but that path doesn’t seem to interest Mura Masa, instead he’s injected himself front and centre of his second LP ‘R.Y.C’ (‘Raw Youth Collage’) taking up vocal duties on the lion’s share of tracks.
It’s a bold move. The inability to sing paired with the ability to pen a tune can so often be the frustrating curse of the songwriter. Fortunately this is not the case here. Alex Crossan’s voice sounds pleasant against the more lo-fi compositions scattered across the LP, which when positioned next to his debut doesn’t make a whole lot of sense; it may as well be a different artist entirely. Gone are the house influences that underpinned his 2016 debut, and in are scratchy demo-sounding guitars, crisp production and gorgeous flourishes of string arrangements.
House still lives on in some of the beat arrangements, although it’s presented through more natural-sounding drums which, when stacked against the lo-fi instrumentals, births something fresh and inspired. Take the driven instrumental of ‘No Hope Generation’, where the spidering drum pattern intertwines with the chugging guitar line to stunning effect, or the splashes of funk guitar that lap against the four-on-the-floor beat of highlight ‘Deal Wiv It’; a track which finds Slowthai doing his best Mike Skinner. It’s a formula that doesn’t always work - the fat electronic bassline that suddenly undercuts the blissful first quarter of ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’ is overbearing - but hey, that’s the nature of experimenting a little.
Lyrically the album has its sights set on the apocalyptic complexities that loom over 20-somethings, an approach which varies in success. The refrain of “everybody do the no hope generation” won’t exactly set the world alight, however the auto-tuned reading of anxiety-riddled thoughts on the title track feels pertinent against the tensening sonics beneath; “I can’t see past the screen / I don’t know how to be” he sings.
The LP’s lighter moments withholds the gold - ‘Today’ is a beautifully melancholic acoustic-led ballad and the epic ‘Teenage Headache Dreams’ features an emotive vocal collage at its centre before the ethereal presence of Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell carries the track through to a dramatic climax. Whether this new direction alienates or alights his fanbase, it remains to be seen - either way, ‘R.Y.C’ bills Mura Masa as a different prospect entirely.