After the release of his self-titled album a few years ago, which expanded the influence and scope of Britain’s unique electronic sound, Alex Crossan’s second album ‘R.Y.C’ (Raw Youth Collage) marks a change of direction. The producer has made bold and brave steps for his sophomore album; switching up from his usual electronic style to a guitar-heavy, angsty sound while laying down his own vocals on some of the main tracks.
Opener ‘Raw Youth Collage’ sets the tone for the rest of the album. A simple bass guitar strumming two notes plays as Alex aka Mura Masa talks of nostalgia and apprehension. Next track, ‘No Hope Generation’, sweeps in with a sense of nihilism but overall the song falls somewhat flat, with lacklustre lyrics and conviction to match: “Everybody do the no hope generation / the new hit sensation craze sweeping the nation / gimme a bottle and a gun, and I’ll show you how it’s done”.
Other moments are slightly bemusing. Take the skit ‘a meeting at an oak tree’ with Ned Green. It tells the story of young love and lust, and Ned sneaking into his ex-girlfriend’s room at her home, which ends abruptly with the couple later meeting by a tree with a banana...and the listener wondering what’s just happened.
Compared to the previous self-titled record the features here are in sharp contrast, with less of a hip-hop emphasis. That doesn't mean they're not interesting, though. On ‘I Don’t think I Can Do This Again’, the soft tones of Clairo - who sings of a past lover - are underpinned by a thunderous bassline, while the ‘Parklife’-esque ‘Deal Wiv It’, featuring Slowthai, is the most punk track on the record. The Northampton rapper spits off-beat over infectiously arranged instrumentation - it’s a real album highlight, with its inflections of Ian Dury combined with the spirit of one of the UK's most vital, and angry, MCs.
There’s also seriously strong end to the record that’s much lighter than the rest of the project. ‘Teenage Headache Dreams’ is an uplifting ballad, while the closing track ‘nocturn for strings and a conversation' is a compelling, calming song that sounds bittersweet, emotional and poignant. A guitar softly plays while strings shimmer in the background. It’s a pretty perfect ending, and a depth of sound that would have been good to hear more of throughout the album.
It would be a bold concept to create a song built on an idea or a feeling from the early 2000s, but to build an entire album around the idea is a step further, and that’s what Mura Masa has attempted here. Crossnan's first musical experiences were playing in bands in his home-town, which is why the project is imbibed with such a strong sense of nostalgia. Alex said himself “If you’re smart right now, you’re making guitar music”. He might just be right, is this the start of the next trend or is Mura Masa just keeping us on our toes? Whatever you think of this new record, it definitely does that.
Words: Joe Hale
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