Mura Masa clocks in for a 9 to 5 on ‘demon time’
When it comes to exploring different kinds of music, British artist and producer Mura Masa is a chameleon. Since 2013, he has experimented in numerous genres, from post-punk and indie pop to hip hop and EDM. Working with notable artists including A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and slowthai, each project brings exciting new faces and sounds to the table. This time around, Mura Masa’s third album “demon time” revolves around the sounds of pop rap and R&B with mixed results.
“demon time” opens strong with a title track featuring Brooklyn up-and-comer BAYLI. Her repetitive, earworm hook and vulgar verses make for a quality introduction that sets the tone for the rest of the album. Shygirl, Pinkpantheress and Lil Uzi Vert join up in the following song “bbycakes.” Referencing the 3 Of A Kind song “Baby Cakes,” the trio creates an infectious tune backed by Mura Masa’s bubblegum production. The sweet performance from Shygirl is a standout.
Unfortunately, as the album’s name suggests, listening to “demon time” isn’t a completely positive experience. Some of the guest performances feel phoned-in, such as slowthai on “up all week” or both Pa Salieu and Skillibeng on “blessing me,” with the latter song featuring some of the most flavorless production I’ve heard all year.
Mura Masa is a jack of all trades but a master of none. Over the course of this project, he attempts many mainstream-adjacent styles. Some are successful — just take the groovy two-step rhythms of “e-motions” or the rave-ready “hollaback bitch.” But for every hit on this project, there is also a miss.
“demon time” functions best as background music for a party. It sounds good as long as you don’t pay too much attention. Though I will be coming back to individual songs, I don’t see myself revisiting this project as a whole.
Mura Masa’s “demon time” is well-produced but disjointed
It’s been five years since Alexander Crossan, aka Mura Masa, released his self-titled debut LP, and he left high expectations to live up to. His first two albums garnered over 500 million streams on Spotify alone, and they stand as a creative bridge between the often-separate worlds of electronic and pop music. Last Friday, Crossan released his third studio album “demon time,” an album that has its high points, but it’s up for debate whether it holds up to the legacy of his previous work.
Producers who release full-length albums with features on most tracks encounter a tough task from the get-go: How will they let various artists shine while still curating a cohesive, distinctive sound? On “demon time,” Crossan crafts exceptional instrumentals behind his numerous features, yet the tracks don’t always fit together and perhaps straying away from a central “Mura Masa” sound.
This album certainly has its high points. The production on this album outshines Crossan’s previous work, with tracks feeling full and sonically balanced. The song “slomo” has a fun hyperpop-adjacent beat and vocals that are reminiscent of 100 gecs. “e-motions” with Erika de Casier has ethereal vocals and a catchy hook over a melodic garage beat. The song “demon time” is arguably cheesy, but has a memorable syncopated groove. This track, like much of the album as a whole, seems self-aware, acknowledging that not every aspect of art must be serious.
My favorite song on the album is “2gether”, a solo song where Crossan’s voice shines over an interesting electronic instrumental. Warped chords bounce back and forth from ear to ear over a driving but calm beat. The song displays Crossan’s electronic prowess and creativity, but it’s so fleeting a moment that it almost feels misplaced on an album of pop songs.
The song “bbycakes” features Lil Uzi Vert, Pink Panthress and Shygirl, and definitely stands as the main firepower on this album. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Mura Masa has big features (after all, we saw A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Desiigner
, and Damon Albarn on his 2017 album), but it was surprising to see all three of these artists on the same track.
But at less than three minutes, none of the features have the bandwidth to truly shine, and the beat is not a perfect fit with any of their sounds. Other tracks sound generic, such as “blessing me,” “tonto,” and “prada (i like it).” It is understandable that the tenor of Mura Masa’s music would adapt over time. But while a highly adaptable sound lends itself to collaboration, maintaining a signature feel is necessary to cement oneself as an artist, as opposed to a producer.
“demon time” may come as a bit of a disappointment to people who enjoyed Mura Masa’s past music, as it has less cohesion in sound and no central concept. That being said, the songs themselves are all enjoyable listens and reflect a clear step up in Crossan’s abilities. At only 26, he is still exploring the direction he wants to take his sound. Fortunately for him and his listeners, he has shown the potential for success in every genre he has tried so far. Once we start hearing a more characteristic sound, I can only imagine that Mura Masa will become even more well-renowned in the music world.