'We Outside Now' by Scruffs: a jazzy, experimental commentary on life
‘We Outside Now’, the 8-track project from Eora-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Scruffs, is a soundtrack to the ups and downs of the last few years. Created in the context of lockout laws and lockdowns, the EP doesn’t wallow in the difficult and the uncertain, but instead powers forward. On the contrary, Scruffs imagines listeners “getting on with life; driving, walking, working”. The project is perfect listening for sunny summer afternoons: it’s hopeful and buoyant, demonstrative of a producer firmly locked into his sound, but with an authenticity that speaks volumes. The project is characterised by live instrumentation, woozy soundscapes and jazzy undertones, with a healthy dose of quirky one shots and personality.
The EP kicks off with ‘Corolla Mission’, with Scruffs blending an infectious bassline with flavours of lo-fi hip-hop and crunchy acoustic percussion. His sound selection is expert: the snare is crisp, the hi-hats are meaty and present, and the keys are sultry, dim-lit lounge perfection. Halfway through, Scruffs throws a spanner in the works; the track turns synth-y and space-y, fading out slowly over a sparse bass groove.
‘World is Yours’ is vinyl-crackly and upbeat, the sort of beat you can imagine Loyle Carner hopping on. The vibe is nostalgia, nostalgia and more nostalgia, driven primarily by an old-timey vocal sample and a strings section. The EP’s fourth track, ‘Stay Up’, is heavy on the slightly distorted keys, laying a vaguely detuned foundation for a catchy hook and verses from Josef. Honestly, we’re itching to hear more from this Sydney artist. His contribution to the track is understated yet so impactful, urging action from the listener: “Come around quick or get lost in the mix”. Josef feels like a veteran already.
It's after ‘Moe and Benski (Interlude)’ that things start to get a little more interesting. ‘Party at Justin Street or Deepa’s’ is wonky and dancey, as if by Katrayanada’s more laid-back cousin from the Inner West. Wah-wah guitars, live drums and celestial synths make for a track that could both get bodies moving at kick-ons and score a solitary afternoon walk in the sunshine. ‘Seventy One Shit’ is a standout, a delicious journey through genre and mood. It starts with off-centred kicks thumping over a space-y synth. Then, the track kicks into gear and blossoms into a synth-y Flume-esque dreamscape, before evolving into a heady, jazzier affair. The production is creamy and exciting, yet refined; Scruff shows off his prowess as the EP comes to a close, subverting the downtempo outro we usually see at the end of a project.
Having worked with the likes of Okenyo, Rainbow Chan, Ngaiire, Jonti and Glo, Scruffs is a staple of the Sydney scene and ‘We Outside Now’ demonstrates why. Fans of the Silhouettes Project, 'Welcome to the Hills' (Yussef Dayes, Charlie Stacey and Rocco Palladino) and chill jazz funk in general – do yourself a favour and give the project a listen.
Words by Portia Brajkovic (@port______)
Images 1 & 2 by @josephjwells