Tolfrey's debut release was partially constructed using his mouth. Rather than create melodies using keyboards, synthesisers or a computer the very starting point was a hum. Using software Tolfrey would then convert this initial earworm into midi notes, to be turned into music back on his computer. Hence the album's title.
It explains much of Word of Mouth's sound - groove based, with baselines you can easily imagine being hummed whilst dreaming rapturous dance floors on the bus. Which sadly isn't to say everything here is infectiously memorable, but there is a certain immediacy to the bass.
Tolfrey is label boss for Leftroom Records and has also released through Crosstown Rebels, Rekids and Culprit amongst others... All labels known much more for their 12" single and EP releases than long-players, a fact that is clearly in evidence here. In response to the age-old question of how to handle the dance album Tolfrey goes for the slightly predictable "change nothing about the music, just add a few vocals" option.
Some of those vocals stand up. Marshall Jefferson would sound pretty cool reading out his shopping list, so his tribute to house (complete with plenty of name-checking) is a highlight, riding the very locked groove the vocal references. It feels a little resigned though, Marshall championing the likes of Jamie Principle on what is ultimately little more than a DJ tool. It is certainly not a patch on his own fantastically surreal 'Mushrooms', which musically treads a similar path of warm tech-house.
And Kid K's breathless vocal on the snappy 'Turn You Out' is funky and distinct enough to transcend its surroundings whilst album closer 'Not So Little', featuring Kevin Knapp, is slinky and refined. Knapp's vocals flip-flop between spoken and whispered, creating an honest timelessness to Tolfrey's production that is lacking elsewhere.
Accompanying these highlights are a clutch of unnecessary fillers. Jem Cooke appears on two tracks but makes an impact on neither and there are a few other similar efforts. Worse still, 'Darkside of the Discoball' highlights the fallacy of all the vocals, creating something far more interesting without needing any.
For the ups and downs Word of Mouth never really transcends the 12" format that inspired it - only 'Not So Little' really justifies the album format, a song that actually feels like it has something to say.
Word of Mouth is released through Leftroom Records on 22 October, you can pre-order it on CD from Amazon.co.uk here [affiliate link]. Preview the album below via Soundcloud: