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Mr. Scruff: Ninja Tuna

London's Mr. Scruff is one of the fizziest artists on the Ninja Tune roster, which is saying something given the label's jokey tendencies. (See the title of this album, Scruff's fourth, for evidence.) But Scruff has hardier traits as well; he fuses loosey-goosey jazz-funk keyboard patterns and crisp, basic breakbeats and dance patterns to give even his straightest stuff a hint of wobble. He also uses vocalists well: Brit soulstress Alice Russell on "Music Takes Me Up," smoky-voiced Andreya Triana on "Hold On," and UK MC Roots Manuva on "Nice Up The Function" all make their presence felt while keeping the focus on the producer. Sometimes Scruff's goofiness leads to glibness both overt (the twittering synth bass of "Whiplash") and less so (the paint-by-numbers disco pastiche of "Get On Down"). But during the album's final quarter, Scruff mitigates the cuteness with meaty tracks like the soundtrack-y "Give Up To Get" and the hazy Latinisms of "Stockport Carnival," making what came before sound like a jokey warm-up. In the future, he'd be better served skipping the jokes altogether.


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