It's a new Mr Scruff album, hence a new Mr Scruff PR and you know what to expect, right? I widdle on about sexy potatoes and bouncy bacteria offering you a cup of tea, you have a little chuckle and actually make a brew, you stick on the album and… hold on. Because you see, quietly and without a lot of fuss (cos that's not the way the Stockport Strepsil rolls) Mr Scruff aka Andy Carthy has been evolving and developing his music.
So yeah, you can still count upon a shedload of gritty funk and stony soul (not sure where this metaphor's going..?) but the new record displays a stripped back musicality, a depth that maybe hasn't been there before. It's been coming across his last few releases, but this is the most complete, sustained exploration of where his music is at right now. In Carthy's own pithy words it's "tougher, sparser, less samples, more bass. More vocals and collaborations and shorter tunes."
Carthy puts down a lot of this development to his spending more time working and jamming with other musicians. Scruff first came across Denis Jones, who sings and plays on a number of tracks, supporting Amp Fiddler in Liverpool five or so years ago. The pair often meet to jam and share germs and the results are immediately apparent from the first track on the record, "Stereo Breath," where Jones' tightly harmonised, soulful vocals rub up against a classicaly huge and unstable, unquantised bassline. Other vocalists on the record include another long-term friend Vanessa Freeman, who adds just the right amount of smoothness to the 2step shuffle of "Come Find Me" and the one and only Robert Owens. As Carthy puts it himself, "What can you say?!" In an atypical setting Owens lays down a fragile, beautiful vocal. In addition, Scruff worked with musicians Matthew Halsall, Andy Kingslow, Kaidi Tatham, Sara Dowling and Taz Modi, plus the bass sensation Phil France who, while local to Scruff, is best known internationally for his work with Cinematic Orchestra.
The results are, frankly, splendid. "What?" fires jazz-scronk up against a b-line that shows his common lineage with longtime chum and collaborator Roots Manuva. "We Are Coming" is a re-imagining of the intersection of early techno, electro and acid, the groove emerging like morning sun. "Feel Free" featuring lovely trumpet work from Halsall, Dowling's cello, and the thrum of France's double bass, is just dripping with beautiful regret. If this record proves anything, it's that there's more, much more to the work of Andy Carthy than dancefloor grooves and funny cartoons.
Don't worry though - it is still one sexy potato.