Andrew Carthy is one of the zanier beatsmiths. He's an obsessive collector of audio esoterica and a cartoonist with a charmingly childlike line in scribble. As Mr. Scruff, he combines both sensibilities to people his musical world. KEEP IT UNREAL is so overstuffed with quirky beats and pieces that "Keep It Surreal" might have been more appropriate. Like labelmates Amon Tobin and Coldcut, Mr. Scruff plunders his vast record collection for funk, soul, exotica, and jazz samples with kleptomaniac glee.
Mr. Scruff comes up with some wild combinations on his excellent debut album. "Spandex Man" jumbles Canterbury keys and swamp boogie guitar. Rhumba organs and sharp programming mix it up on "Blackpool Roll." "Get a Move On" choreographs '20s swing to a '90s house beat. Carthy's familiar sea-life fixation surfaces on "Shanty Town" and "Fish," irresistible Plunderphonic skanks with narrative affectations. Beyond his unfaltering sense of humor, KEEP IT UNREAL reveals Carthy's impressive range and a well-tuned ear for arrangements. Crashing breaks buoy the easy-listening vibes of "Chipmunk." On the luscious "Honeydew," Fi's pop-soul vocals are cushioned in wah-wah and strings but chastened by crisp, cold hip-hop rhythms. The spare, dubby "Jusjus" provides an attractive backdrop for Roots Manuva's toast-like rap.
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