Fuzzy, heavy and honest.
Mura Masa's (Alex Crossan) self-titled debut in 2017 was a mania of featured artists and generic percussive instrumentals and while it showed promise, the project lacked substance. However with this sophomore LP, R.Y.C. (Raw Youth Collage), Crossan swaps the bland percussion for fizzy synths, and those unfulfilling features for an array of genuinely exciting artists. The entire project is a loud, but intimate look at Crossan’s teenage years. It takes us through the trials and tribulations of adolescence in an open and honest way, rather than satisfying the normal expectation of lazy lyricism when writing about love.
Instead of lacing the project with an easily predictable list of featured guests, Crossan has leaned into the alternative and it is evident that these guests have been chosen specifically, and not simply in regards to their Spotify statistics. ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’ (one of my personal highlights) features indie pop starlet Clairo crooning over gentle acoustic guitars before a distorted synth-heavy, blow-the-car-speakers kinda hook. Clairo’s vocals sit well over the twinkly verse instrumental, while Crossan continues to stick to his roots with a big, festival-ready beat. The inaudible phone conversation ups the intimacy level further of these shorter cuts, like the spoken word passage ‘a meeting at an oak tree’, which stands out as an excellent moment to this LP. Another highlight is the collaboration with national treasure Slowthai; ‘Deal Wiv It’.
A track that could have been lifted from Mike Skinner’s hard drive, ‘Deal Wiv It’ is a witty lead single that bops along just as Slowthai (Tyrone Frampton) does on stage. While its no secret that Slowthai has spent time with Mike Skinner in the past, the influence is nearly too much, but the cut still serves its purpose as a lighter, more humorous moment on quite a personal album. The simple backbeat and bass riff chugs along nicely while Slowthai waffles on about his shit day. It is truly brilliant.
Despite the majority of the album showing Mura Masa at his best (so far), cuts like ‘In My Mind’ and ‘Today’ are forgettable when compared to the brazen singles released prior to the LP. ‘In My Mind’ has Crossan trying to perform Tame Impala-esque vocals over a heavily bit-crushed beat that does not do much at all for the listener when listened to in an out of album context. However, the song does fit in with the overarching feel of the album. But still. Meh. ‘Today’ is also the same situation; Tirzah flips between mumbling and singing over a half baked instrumental. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and if you asked me to sing it right now, , I’ve already forgotten how it goes. Is there even a hook?
Another weaker cut is ‘Live Like We’re Dancing’. If it was Rex Orange County singing on this track and not London-based singer-songwriter-producer Georgia, it could have easily been taken from R.O.C.'s most recent album. Light, simple dance music taking tasteful influence from disco and soul. Georgia’s vocals seem to fall a little flat for me, but the instrumental is sweet and bouncy. A decent track, but falls into the same failing that other tracks have done in the sense that its just too forgettable.
R.Y.C.'s penultimate track, however, is one of the best tracks to come out of the alternative scene that I’ve heard in a while. On 'Teenage Headache Dreams' Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell (cliché intended) has the voice of an angel. Rowsell’s stunning reverb soaked vocals matched with Alex’s rough-around-the-edges vocal line compliment each other beautifully. Light guitars and drums keep the song flowing but never feel overwhelming. It seems evident that the signature, washy tones of Wolf Alice's guitars make an appearance too in the second half of the track. The ending kicks into an alt rock-dance beat fusion. And fuck me, it shouldn’t work but it really really does. The finale ('nocturne for strings and a conversation') is a lo-fi instrumental cut that feels like it could fit in the sound track of a teen coming of age movie. Jazz influenced guitar parts take centre stage for majority of this track. Gentle, filtered percussion hides in the background. A fitting conclusion to a well-realised project.
Raw Youth Collage is could well prove to be a turning point for alternative music in 2020, blending indie rock, dance music, lo-fi, punk, spoken word, and more into an enjoyably nostalgic experience, but let down slightly by its weaker cuts.
- 7.7 -
'I Don't Think I Can Do This Again', 'Teenage Headache Dreams', 'Deal Wiv It'
James Mellen is a very bored student in his final year of compulsory education, waiting to study music production and performance at degree level. He is passionate about music, guitars and music. He also watches films sometimes.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England. Subscribe to our mailing list below to be alerted every time a post is published on the site.