Demon Time sounds like the soundtrack to a late night out at the club. In interviews, English electronic producer Alex Crossan, better known as Mura Masa, expressed a focus on “joyfulness” and “hedonism” in this project, a way for him to bounce back from the isolation of the last few years. Across this album’s short 29 minutes, Crossan pulls sounds from all across the map, as well as a packed feature lineup, to assemble an album that is immensely fun, if a bit hollow.
Demon Time feels very much like a byproduct of the last couple years of popular culture. Whether it’s the Bottega Veneta Puddle Boots worn on the cover, the all lowercase styling of the tracklist, or the hyperpop leanings in the vocals, this album is Mura Masa attempting to fit into the year 2022. It feels like Crossan is running down a checklist of things to make him look cool, rather than attempting to create his own unique image. This is seen no clearer than on “bbycakes,” which recruits Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, and Shygirl while interpolating a 2004 U.K. garage hit of the same name. “bbycakes” follows the trend of recent hits like Jack Harlow’s “First Class” or Drake’s “Way 2 Sexy” by remaking a hit from the past, but with less energy and charm. These moments just seem insincere, and end up falling flat.
The production on Demon Time shifts across synth pop, drill, garage, and even reggaeton for a track. Mura Masa is experimenting with his sound, styling his beats to land in the vocalists’ sweet spots. This album is at its best when leaning into dark, brooding house music, like on “hollaback b***h” or “up all week.” On vocals, experimental pop and rap artists like Shygirl, Channel Tres, and newcomer LEILAH do a great job of making this album feel stylish. The lyrics here are vapid and braggadocious for the most part, falling into the expected clichés of designer clothing, shiny jewelry, and asking that girl at the club to dance. Rare moments of actual lyrical substance, like slowthai’s scathing commentary on the verse of “up all week,” end up feeling out of place. On another of the more lyrically interesting tracks, the heartfelt “e-motions,” Erika de Casier says, “I’d cross the ocean, you wouldn’t even jump puddles for me.” These moments are great, but feel at odds with an album that seems content on not taking itself seriously.
When at its best, like the bouncy ringtone melodies on “prada (i like it)” or the whimsically upbeat synths on “slomo,” Demon Time is infectious. These songs feel like hits, like I could hear them get played out and people would sing every word. There really is something for everyone here, with a bevy of different sounds on display. However, in attempting so many styles and trying to appeal to so many different audiences, Demon Time ultimately lacks any central identity. This album is full of clashing ideas, with reggaeton bangers placed right next to somber pop ballads. It lacks cohesion and gives a sense that Crossan is just trying to see what sticks. Demon Time ends up failing to hold up as a complete work, and feels more like a playlist for a party than any sort of artistic statement.
Photo Credits from: https://www.muramasa.me/