Mr. Scruff – Ninja Tuna – Ninja Tune

Oisín Kealy

Mr Scruff is the nom de plume of one Andy Carthy, and by all accounts a title that has become synonymous with marathon DJ sets of outstanding quality. Here on his first release of new material since Trouser Jazz in 2002, he returns a little more relaxed but with the same playful sound suggested by his naive album artwork.

Taking his music out of a live setting does dampen the freedom of it somewhat, but the energy still translates. What is collected here is pretty inoffensive stuff, funk with a lowercase f, but enjoyable fluff nonetheless. As long as you are not looking for anything revelatory, this album will happily accompany any dimly lit room.

Music Takes Me Up is an early highlight, a Latin piano figure bounces along punctuated by some colourful organ chords, while the vocals of Alice Russell sail through the chorus rather infectiously. Later songs This Way and Hold On are two convincing floor fillers, the latter only betrayed as being of this decade by its pulsating drum rhythm, otherwise perfectly believable as a lost entry from canon of seventies soul. The promising Roots Manuva led Nice Up The Function, however, fails to live up to the potential suggested by its collaborators and settles for okay rather than great.

The album’s standout moment is in Kalimba, a brilliantly constructed piece. This is what Mr Scruff does best, collecting bits of musical debris and uniting them so well that conceiving them in any other form becomes a tough task. The stitching doesn’t show here at all, gutsy organ funk and energetic percussion carrying the song throughout, the entry of fevered strings halfway through entirely seamless. Stockport Carnival caps the album on the Latin influence, a five-and-a-half minute playground for trumpet and flute which just might convince you to press play again.


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