Long before music collections were digitized and arranged in playlists, there was the pause-button mixtape phenomenon. Crudely assembled by passionate listeners who were quick on their boom-box controls, these audiocassette masterpieces were many a fledgling deejay’s introduction to making a set flow. One such selector, Andy Carthy, found his muse while tackling a pile of his father’s soul records in a house near Manchester, England, blending the voices of the past with his favorite contemporary bands of the 1980s. All that time spent pressing “pause,” “play” and “record” provided a good musical foundation for the man who fifteen years later would be releasing his own singles as Mr. Scruff.
Now a deejay with numerous residencies and tours under his belt, Mr. Scruff is getting back to his roots with the reissue of Mrs Cruff. This collection of twelve-inches was originally released on Pleasure Records in 1997 and includes classics that all seem to take their names from clubbers’ late-night cravings: “Chicken in a Box,” “Crisps” and “Jazz Potato.”
Even with his penchant for naming songs after fatty foods, Mr. Scruff has maintained a trim figure while becoming a star. “Chicken in a Box” was the first tasty track to fill dance floors, and its recent reissue on vinyl has already sold out. That convinced Ninja Tune that Mr. Scruff’s other early offerings belonged in more collectors’ hands. The strings, jazz loops, old-movie samples and persistent references to large sea mammals that are characteristic of Mr. Scruff’s work are all found in the twelve remastered tracks offered up on CD (or the nine tracks on the three-LP version).
That Ninja Tune is releasing these tracks seems appropriate: many of the distinctive flavors of label mates such as Coldcut and Amon Tobin are apparent throughout. Mrs Cruff will take listeners back in time with the king of Trouser Jazz. Even if they can’t queue up to hear the eclectic mix of soul, jazz, hip-hop, house and disco tracks Mr. Scruff’s been known to drop at his “Keep it Unreal” club night, they can still press play and hear all those influences in the early tunes of this pause-button maverick.