Narrowing up the sound spectrum and cutting down on the clutter, Manchester native Andy Carthy, aka Mr. Scruff, is a leaner, meaner kind of funky on his 2014 effort Friendly Bacteria, an album that sits well with Cameo's Word Up!, George Clinton's Computer Games, and early Mr. Oizo releases. The twerpy, funky, nighttime bassline of the opening "Stereo Breath" sets the tone with vocalist Denis Jones making the first of his four contributions, all of them lazy, melancholic, and perfectly suited to Scruff's stony type of soul. The tipsy and downtown number "Render Me" is the best of the Jones and Scruff team-ups as jazzy piano and broken beats suggest getting drunk in a tasteful, urbanite loft; then there's the late album lift-off "Catch Sound," which bubbles and bounces as standup bass and Burial-style beats come together in a small, cheery tune. All these deep tones suit veteran house music vocalist Robert Owens, who speaks truth to the downtrodden, downtempo crowd on "He Don't." Vanessa Freeman is elegant and intoxicating on "Come Find Me," where Kraftwerk-like bleeps skillfully worm their way through DJ Zinc-like beats. Instrumental tracks give Scruff's keyboards room to wander into jazz and funk territory, and while some stick more than others, the great "What" sounds like saxophone robots competing in an angry blowin' session while "Feel Free" is a dreamy drive down a winding road as string quartets and Miles Davis flit past the windows. Groovy things still happen when Mr. Scruff downsizes, so write "less samples, more music" on the back of this one and reach for it often.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries