June 1st marks a tidy milestone for Andy Carthy’s seminal album Keep It Unreal. It’s 20 years ago to the day that Ninja Tune shared the playfully expressive musical mind of Mr. Scruff with the world.*
Back when Shank’s & Bigfoot‘s ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ was number 1 in the UK charts Mr. Scruff was laxly crafting audible oddities that result in an album that is cheeky, hypnotic and energizing in equal measure. Very much a DJ’s DJ and people’s champ when it comes to bringing the vibe behind the booth, one could be forgiven for overlooking the impressive back catalogue Mr. Scruff has as a producer and beatsmith.
Keep It Unreal set the tone for the scruffy signature style that we’ve been treated and accustomed to over the years. Across 14 tracks of jazzed out, funky breaks, booming b-lines and obscure Thomas the Tank Engine** audiobook samples, sit some stone cold classics.
‘Jusjus’ with Roots Manuva, ‘So Long’ (sampling vibes virtuoso Gary Burton’s track ‘Crystal Silence’) and the bass heavy bouncer, ‘Cheeky’ are all personal favourites. The anthemic ‘Get A Move On’ is nestled neatly between the light-hearted ‘Spandex Man’ and soul soothing vocals of Fiona Renshaw on ‘Honeydew’ whereas Scruff’s playful side comes out in his tributes to marine life and seafarers in ‘Shanty Town’ and ‘Fish’.
If for whatever reasons, a start-to-finish listening session of Keep It Unreal has thus far escaped you, now would be a good time to get involved. If you are searching for the full hit, a 10th Anniversary Analogue Remaster Edition was released back in ’09, featuring 8 previously unreleased tracks from the original studio sessions. Tips on their include ‘Baisies’ and ‘Sky Blue’.
All in all, 20 years down the line, by no means a masterclass in production, Keep It Unreal is still laced with groove, bass, melody and an amusing originality that will keep it playing and being discovered for years to come. Scruff – my evening brew will be in your honour, sir.
*Mr. Scruff’s debut album Mr. Scruff was originally released on Pleasure Music in 1997, with a re-release entitled Mrs. Cruff released on Ninja Tune in 2005.