Despite the fact he has brought on the careers of a multitude of producers from Huxley to Laura Jones to Sam Russo via his Leftroom imprint, toured the globe as a much in-demand DJ and hosted any number of Leftroom parties around the world from WMC to Sankeys Ibiza, Matt Tolfrey has also managed to find time to teach himself how to produce in the last few years. Often his beats have come in conjunction with likeminded producers (think Lee Curtiss and Kate Simko, for example) in the past, and it’s an approach the London based producer favours once again on his debut album, Word of Mouth.
Rather than an all-over-the-place anthology of co-productions, though, there is still something that ties together all 10 tracks here. Mainly it’s a sleek and smooth melodic touch, but also buried within each thoroughly modern sounding track is an appreciation for the past – sometimes it’s explicit in the form of a Marshall Jefferson collab, at others its more subtle like the muscular New Jersey bump of “Distant Story” for example.
Refreshingly, Tolfrey is happy to admit he has no formal musical training, but he hasn’t let that stop him. Using an app which records your hums and turns it into proper musical notes (hence the album’s title, Word of Mouth), he’s found a way to realise the melodies and basslines in his head into palpable things. And great melodies they are too, sometimes forever melting away to nothing as on the techy wiggle of ‘The Spooks’ but also explicitly blissed out as one sunset anthem “Mission to Paradise.”
It’s true these are all tracks designed for the floor, but the sensitivity of the melodies and variation in the beats – from straight four four to more scattered and syncopated rhythms – make them an easy listen even when you’re at home. Some go deep, others float in more celestial spaces, and more than once is there a vocal line that you’ll be singing long after you stop dancing. For anyone that lazily had Tolfrey down as a deep tech house or post minimal producer, this rounded and accomplished debut LP should serve as welcome reminder that he’s much more than that. He’s someone with his own visions, his own sounds, and now the skills to fully lay them out as he surely always intended.