Mr. Scruff, Ninja Tuna

Tim Lawrence

By Tim Lawrence

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Ninja Tuna

Mr. Scruff

Born in Macclesfield in the north of England in 1972, Mr Scruff started DJing in nearby Manchester in 1994, a short while after the euphoria of the "Summers of Love" of 1988 and 1989 had fizzled out. Intent on incorporating soul, early hip-hop, jazz, reggae, dub, pop and electronic dance music into his sets, Scruff (originally Andy Carthy) developed a tapestry aesthetic that hooked into the mood of dancers who wanted to keep smiling and knew that the amphetamines would no longer do the trick. Scruff started spinning music in the right place at the right time, and his distinctive "potato style" artwork suggested he also had the potential to become the UK's answer to Keith Haring, whose work combined the playful street style of early 1980s hip-hop with the transcendent optimism of downtown dance.

Scruff spins another tapestry of downtown dance

Scruff's distinctive blend of sounds and sensibilities can be heard on Ninja Tuna, his fourth studio album. The album opens with "Test the Sound," on which a disembodied voice asks the rhetorical question, "Who wanna mess around and test the sound?" The answer, of course, is Scruff. After that, "Music Takes Me Up" draws on uptempo dance-jazz; "Donkey Ride" develops a Latin groove; "Hairy Bumpercress" edges into the territory of soulful house; "Whiplash" punches out breakbeats and samples; "Nice Up the Function" puts a West Coast break onto the breakbeat groove; "Bang the Floor" layers low-fi synth grumbles onto an even slower, funkier groove. Rounding off the album, "Get On Down," "Hold On," "Give Up to Get," "Kalimba" and "This Way" develop an explicitly soulful outro, while the final track, "Stockport Carnival," sums up Scruff's intention nicely. Stockport, like Macclesfield, might lie on the outskirts of Manchester, but the rhythms of North America, South American and the Caribbean permeate its streets and clubs.