- The Manchester DJ's mix features global music garnished with humour.
- "I tried playing the same way, you'll never hear me play a lyric that doesn't match the way I'm feeling at the same time, what I'm trying to say to the people," DJ Harvey told Gerd Janson at an RBMA lecture back in 2005. They were discussing Harvey's late friend Larry Levan, who would supposedly speak to the Paradise Garage dance floor through the lyrics of the music he played. I talked with Andy Carthy, the Manchester producer and DJ who's better known as Mr. Scruff, and he expressed something that resonated in a similar way. For Carthy, he wants to ensure people know about the roots of the music he plays; it's about "being very vocal about your influences," he said. Scanning the tracklist of his DJ-Kicks mix, you can sense why this might feel so necessary to him.
For the past 25 years, Carthy has used his DJ sets to bring music from around the world into conversation. A house or techno DJ might play tracks from a large spread of countries, but for the most part you'd expect everything to settle into a single slipstream of sound. On his DJ-Kicks mix, conversely, Carthy presents choice cuts from divergent regional genres he's excited by. Dancehall, hip-hop, various shades of jazz, tarraxinha, reggae, funk, house, Italo disco, electro, samba and Afrobeat all feature, the connecting thread being, simply, that Carthy sensed a musical link.
His ear for these links is obvious in the way he mixes here. Judicious loops, careful filtering and the occasional use of delay allow him to emphasise unique unions between tracks, techniques we might expect from his club gigs but that sound extra impressive under the laboratory conditions of a studio mix. Notice, for instance, the section around Errorsmith's "My Party." A loop of Dobie's excellent, wonky, sorta-house track "Magenta" underpins the cartoonish vocal of Errorsmith—until, that is, Carthy slaps in the beats of "3001: A Space Disco Remix," and reframes "My Party" as a bouncing rave-starter. There's a similar sonic entanglement with the bit that starts with Ding Dong's Badman "Forward Badman Pull Up" and ends with Paddy Steer's supremely weird "Loufoque." At one point, Carthy has these two and Fats Comet's "Dub Storm" all playing simultaneously. The result might be considered a type of composition in its own right, which is one of the main goals of this whole DJing thing.
Carthy's ongoing love for humour in music stands him apart from his contemporaries. This is most obvious in his playfully hand-drawn visual identity, but you'll find some of this spirit in his DJ sets and, of course, on DJ-Kicks. He's willing to follow Sudan Archives' gorgeous "Wake Up" with Emilio Santiago's "Bananeira," perhaps the fruitiest song about a banana tree to come out of 1970s Brazil, and he pulls it off. Andy Ash's "Ease Yourself" is shaped by an erratic flute line, a decent springboard for Carthy's own "Where Am I?," an electro house cut that revels in its own squelchy funk. It's telling how he finishes the mix. Where often DJs like to sound a reflective note to close, Carthy lines up a couple of his most flamboyant selections. Some of the last instruments we hear, on Drymbago's "Chupacabra," are a shimmying guitar and an ecstatic trumpet.
I get the feeling that your relationship with quirkiness in music may determine whether you find this a good mix or a great mix. Nothing here is outright wacky, but Carthy has been showing for years—and he emphasizes the point here—that he's a DJ who selects tracks that emphatically express themselves. I'm personally drawn to the side of his taste he shows as he mixes Max Graef's "No 5" into Alexander Robotnick and Stefano Cocco Cantini's "Love Supreme." The former is a modern deep house track with an old-school sensibility, while the latter is a sultry disco jam. This isn't the most outlandish blend on DJ-Kicks, but in 60 unfussy seconds Carthy connects two fine tunes from different styles, countries and eras.
01. Iona Fortune - Da You
02. Equiknoxx - The Link
03. Black Pocket - Thank You And Credits
04. Vernon Maytone - Old Pan Sound
05. Tiger - When
06. DJ Nervoso - Kuia
07. Andreya Triana - Gold (Max Graef Remix)
08. Sudan Archives - Wake Up
09. Emilio Santiago - Bananeira
10. Rosa Maria - Samba Minerio
11. Laurel Aitken - Sexy Boogie
12. Antibalas - Si Se Puede (Battle Of The Species)
13. Natural Self - The Sound
14. Tony Allen - Gbedu B
15. Dobie - Magenta
16. Errorsmith - My Party
17. Mr Scruff vs CyberPunkJazz - 3001: A Space Disco Remix (DJ-Kicks)
18. Fats Comet - Dub Storm
19. Ding Dong - Badman Forward Badman Pull Up
20. Paddy Steer - Loufoque
21. Andy Ash - Ease Yourself
22. Mr. Scruff - Where Am I?
23. Max Graef - No 5
24. Alexander Robotnick - Love Supreme (Extended) feat. Stefano Cocco Cantini
25. Hashim - We're Rocking The Planet
26. Zongamin - Nonstop
27. Bumcello - Frbom
28. Archie Pelago - Brown Oxford
29. Seiji - Loose Lips feat. Lyric L
30. Snowboy And The Latin Section - Carga Tu Bateria
31. Drymbago - Chupacabra