Mr Scruff Exhibits the Extraordinary – Review

On 1st February , the Natural Selection squad welcomed a Mancunian legend to Headrow House.

Mr Scruff has become increasingly difficult to pin down in recent years. He almost exclusively plays marathon sets (some exceeding 6 hours), so the prospect of an extended set at the old mill caused a considerable stir. An icon of eclecticism, hordes of musically open-minded fans turned out that night to witness Scruff explore all corners of his record bag. Whilst Scruff merely scratched the surface of his diverse collection, the lengthy five-hour set was enough to shed some light on his weird and wonderful influences.     

Playing to a packed-out room, Scruff’s set echoed the ethos of the Ninja Tune record label to which he’s currently signed. Spontaneity and surprise were the focus, rather than a conventional progression through a select few genres. Throughout the night Scruff laid down tracks rooted in Blues, Electro, Soul, House, Funk, Ska, Afro-beat and Jazz, along with a few oddballs that kept energy and intrigue at a maximum. One particular track that raised eyebrows was ‘Uma’ by OOIOO. A Japanese psychedelic piece, its nonsensical rhythm and blaring lyrics left the room confused to say the least, but it produced the desired effect of turning heads and causing tension. Moments like this appeared throughout the set, interspersed with snippets of Scruff’s own tracks (including a nice remix of the hit, ‘Get a Move on’) which kept feet moving.

The large crowd that remained until the end of the night were treated to upbeat reworks of jazz classics. A 7-minute rework of Nina Simone’s ‘Love me or leave me’ mellowed out the room before doors closed, but Scruff’s dedication to musical experimentation left a lasting buzz.

As Scruff famously once said, “I’m not trying to do anything very specific”, and his set embodied this refreshing take on things. It was unrestrained, without conventional direction and at times a bit bewildering, but it was these characteristics which defined it and kept it undeniably ‘Scruffian’.

Natalie Layng