- Those familiar with Matt Tolfrey's output over the past seven years should find solace in the solid formula he displays on his debut album, Word of Mouth. Across ten tracks it explores four-four house—from dubby to rasping—while riffing on his work of the last few years rather than attempting anything groundbreaking or experimental. House music often doesn't need to be outré to have an impact, and with Word of Mouth Tolfrey simply adds colour by enlisting guest vocalists, lifting the album away from "extended EP" territory.
Inauspicious but enveloping opener "Encarta" plays on reverberating chords, staccato snares and submerged vocals, gently wrapping the listener in a glowing aura; "Never Assume" follows, its first half showing no urgency to flicker into life with James Teej's distinctive whisperings only lifting the temperature a notch before next track "The Truth." Marshall Jefferson would be welcomed onto most house albums, but there's something wonderfully simple about providing a classic riff and letting his words take over. Tolfrey's innate understanding of what's required to underpin a track is clear, with no embellishments taking attention away from its centrepiece.
As you move through the album—from "Downtown"'s uptempo, choppy percussion to "Mission to Paradise," with Jem Cooke's honey-like vocal drizzling—there's an emphasis on simplicity and form. There's no high concept, no lofty ideals, but in many ways it's pleasing to enjoy a collection without any such baggage. There will be the inevitable voices proclaiming there's nothing challenging here, but there's plenty to enjoy, from "Turn You Out"'s perky licks, "Ya Kid K"'s vox giving attention-grabbing focus to its warmth, and "Distant Story"'s cool and classy blending of Kevin Knapp's words and Jem Cooke's vocals. And "Not So Little"'s dubby closeout of the album hints at more variety to come from Tolfrey in the future. As a whole, Word of Mouth performs no tricks, but nor did it ever claim to.
02. Never Assume feat. James Teej
03. The Truth feat. Marshall Jefferson
04. Downtown feat. Kevin Knapp
05. Mission to Paradise feat. Jem Cooke
06. Darkside of the Disco Ball
07. Turn You Out feat. Ya Kid K
08. Distant Story feat. Jem Cooke & Kevin Knapp
09. The Spooks feat. Kevin Knapp
10. Not So Little feat. Kevin Knapp