RISING Guernsey-born electronic music producer Alex Crossan, otherwise known as Mura Masa landed in Manchester’s intimate Deaf Institute on his 20th birthday, and his performance was certainly something to celebrate according to Quays News entertainment reporter Seren Hughes-Jones...
At 8pm the compact speaker-lined room of Deaf Institute began to fill up, until Dublin founded Bonzai’s appearance on stage at 8.30pm brought everyone up off their balcony seats to a floor full wall-to-wall of pumped fans ready to see what this up and coming singer-songwriter has to offer.
A 20-year-old D&B and R&B singer of dual Irish-American nationality, stormed on stage to the roaring applause of the crowd who embraced her and the rest of the act with open arms until the end of their 30-minute set.
Notable beats included ‘Kassi’ from their 2016 album ‘Sleep Hungry’ released through Crossan’s own label, Anchor Point Records. Beginning with its quick fire stabs and Bonzai’s heavily R&B inspired, feminine vocals, this track quickly evolves into a predominantly electro-dance and D&B hit with its layered deep bass-lines and synth bridge teamed with distorted echoing vocals.
Bonzai’s performance also captivated the audience with her quirky and individual hairstyle and fashion sense, as well as her fiery and energised dancing across the small stage space, especially to the underlying beat of their biggest hit ‘Where Are U Now’ also off this year’s ‘Sleep Hungry’. With being recognised by the likes of Radio 1 DJ Phil Taggart, Bonzai are most definitely one to keep an eye-out for.
Next on stage was the home-grown producer Mura Masa, and as the room suddenly became blackened and his red, blue and white strobe light bars began spinning the crowd began to quieten down from the interact chatter and nod their heads along to the beat.
Mura Masa, multi-instrumentalist, university student and electronic music producer certainly has had a lot of attention in the past few years. From being included in Rolling Stone’s ’10 New Artists You Need to Know’ in 2015, listed fifth in Radio 1’s ‘The Sound Of…’, a celebration of new and independent music talent, and becoming Apple Music’s New Artist of 2016 – there are a lot of expectations being placed on the shoulders of this 20-year-old who is still making music in own bedroom.
Playing tunes from his debut album ‘Soundtrack to a Death’, originally uploaded to Soundcloud but distributed globally by Jakarta Records, tracks like ‘Lotus Eater’ with its use of a twinkling xylophone and exotic instruments that sound akin to a Pungi, a snake-charming wind instrument, make Crossan’s production style more individual than that usual, repetitive and unoriginal dance music seen in today’s culture.
Also from 2014’s ‘Soundtrack to a Death’, a crowd pleaser of the night came from arguably the heaviest track off the album, ‘Hell’. ‘Soundtrack to a Death’ seems to tell a romantic story, with tracks gradually beginning to include harder hitting 808 synthetic drums, mixed with piano chords and high pitched synths. ‘Hell’ provides a change of mood three quarters of of the way through the album, executed with clean percussion and getting the crowd bouncing around while throwing their hands in the air is quite possibly exactly what Mura Masa intended by the track.
Bonzai, a good friend of the main act, also joined him on stage to perform several tracks such as ‘What If I Go?’. The single, which was Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record’ on March 14 and also Radio 1’s ‘Track of the Day’ on April 5 itself, is soon to be released on April 29 and features original lyrics written by Bonzai herself. The pair form a perfect duo with the mix of Bonsai’s saturated vocals and slow, light and airy beats giving the song a perfect summery feel, even on a cold windy Manchester night.
Other songs collaborations with the Irish support act include ‘Low’ from Mura Masa’s 2015 album, ‘Someday Somewhere’ originally featuring Jay Price. A full-on R&B and Grime track, featuring a speedy mid-song rap by Bonzai turned the tone of the gig completely on its head. And as brave members of the crowd shuffled in time to the music, such was clear that Crossan can do almost whatever he wants and it will work.
Selling out shows in Brighton and gigs such as Eletrowerkz in London, Mura Masa is now embarking on his first sell out European tour this April, spanning into a US tour in May. And in Manchester, producing a captivating night, packed full of his neoclassical minimalism, and hypnotic yet upbeat style that executes several genres in a few tracks, while still mysteriously hiding behind his equipment – Crossan reflects exciting things to come.
Said to be inspired by Gorillaz’s ‘Feel Good Inc.’ to begin learning guitar, and also surprisingly drawing influences from Joni Mitchell and playing in Punk, Deathcore and Gospel bands as a child, a minor and singular disappointment could be said for the lack of original guitar, or piano work from Crossan. Showing his own talented vocal work and instrumental skills in Radio 1’s Piano Sessions in 2015, such work combined with his use of music sequencers would have been well-received.
Although Mura Masa’s music is not produced for the tastes of those that are not fans of electro-dance music, his combination of instruments, innovative style and R&B influences can reach out to a much wider audience, and with Alex’s own eclectic taste in music, who can predict what is to come next.
Don’t forget to catch him next at Parklife Festival, Heaton Park on Sunday, June 12, or at Leeds Festival, Bramham Park on Saturday, August 27.
By Seren Hughes-Jones