Wunderkind's confident debut

Mura Masa is the stage name of producer, DJ and singer Alex Crossan (left).
Mura Masa is the stage name of producer, DJ and singer Alex Crossan (above).PHOTO: ANCHOR POINT

ELECTRONICA/ALTERNATIVE R&B

SOMEDAY SOMWHERE

Mura Masa

Anchor Point

****

As any regular disciple of Japanese swordmanship knows, Muramasa Senji was a famous swordsmith who lived during the Muromachi period (14th to 16th centuries) in Japan and was wont to bouts of manic outbreaks. So much so that his madness apparently transmuted to his blades.

Mura Masa is the moniker of Alex Crossan, a 19-year-old wunderkind from Guernsey in the English Channel. Based on publicity photos, Crossan looks like a typical cool kid with a great pompadour, but is he intense?

You don't know, but clearly, he is intensely serious about his craft.

Already longlisted for the influential BBC Sound of 2016, the producer, DJ and singer has been making waves, having garnered 10 million YouTube views and 20 million plays on SoundCloud for a series of remixes and collaborations.

His debut EP, Someday Somewhere, released earlier this year, is a primer on the latest musical names to watch out for, featuring a trio of Londoners.

Significantly, it represents the latest evolution of the Anglo-American R&B/electronica now making inroads into the mainstream (with the Grammy endorsement of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean).

The music has the peripatetic spirit of a wanderer, sojourning into the Orient, dipping in and out of watering holes and luxuriating in the night sky. The results are stupendous, less melancholic than James Blake and more upbeat than Jamie xx.

The lead track, Firefly, showcases a mastery of pace and rhythm. A stardust of keys peppers this toe-tapping doozie, while Nao's vocals are stirred into the appetising mix, delicately sauteed when you least expect it.

Another up-and-coming star, Denai Moore, takes centre stage in Terrible Love, a gorgeous ballad which shape-shifts right in front of your eyes.

Starting off as a moody, stripped-down piano ballad, it mutates into a scuttling club number as Moore coos as a spurned lover who refuses to break down. Elsewhere, Jay Prince raps on Low, an urban dystopia where a serpentine synth melody is draped over interlaced vocal samples.

Such is Crossan's confidence: He clarifies and allows each element its breathing space.

Lovesick is a superb display where a nimble percussion segment is juxtaposed with a bluesy saxophone. When You Need Me is undeniably pretty, a dreamy waterfall of harp-like arpeggios and lonesome piano.

Best thing is, he is also a charismatic vocalist. In the perfectly stark post-dub track Are U There?, this teenager hits the crucible where it matters, segueing from husky to falsetto in a blink.

"I need to know/That you are here with me," he asks. The answer is a resounding yes.

Yeow Kai Chai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2015, with the headline 'Wunderkind's confident debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe