Through the Eyes of ...Matt Tolfrey

When Luke Solomon and Derrick Carter’s The Classic Music Company re-mastered and re-released their epic back catalogue in 2010 there were whoops of joy heard across the globe; from every DJ who had missed the opportunity the first time around through to every classic house music fan who simply wanted to enjoy the decade long discography through the comfort of their own stereos. Whilst the re-release and subsequent re-launch of the label was welcomed with open arms, it came amidst speculation on how the label were going to move forward and re-instate their legacy as one of the most respected and dare I say it, ‘classic’ imprints out there. Re-releasing what they already knew worked was one thing, but moving on and making new waves was another. With the promise of fresh blood injected into the label and a successful European tour proving they were still as popular as ever, The Classic Music Company made their next move – the first edition of a compilation mix CD entitled ‘Through The Eyes Of...’

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The compilation’s concept invites friends to explore the Classic catalogue with free reign to create a mix of “the forgotten gems, the overlooked cuts, the head scratchers, missing links and secret weapons.” With the intention of steering clear from the labels obvious biggest hits, the Classic Music Company’s vaults are opened, showcasing the depths of the catalogue and encouraging a less obvious result. First friend to rise to the challenge was Leftroom head honcho Matt Tolfrey. Introducing the mix with his own ‘Classic Collage’ featuring elements of Black Box’s ‘Caterpillar’, Derrick L Carter’s ‘Where U At?’ and Oneiro’s ‘Oneiro Say – Shhh!’, not only does Tolfrey begin with intrigue but displays dedication to the job, seizing the opportunity to really make this his own.

Perusing through the best part of the late nineties, Tolfrey’s chosen additions of Herbert’s deep, balmy ‘Love & Happiness’ remix of Rednail Kidz + 1 and Jean Caffeine’s upbeat and funk ridden ‘Jean’s Afterthought’ divulge the truly timeless character of the imprint; their sound and transitions into one another sitting as comfortably in 2011 as they did back then. US duo Home and Garden make two stand out appearances, most notably with ‘The Count Of 3’ – possibly their finest ever output with its long drawn out synth chords and tinkling key melodies that lull you into some subdued state of mind. Contrasted with the bellowing bass lines and crisp hats of Nail’s ‘(I Don’t Wanna) Hurt U’; Tolfrey’s arrangement has you happily fist punching the air at times too.

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Taking the compilation duties even further, there are three exclusive remixes from Tolfrey himself. 2002’s epic ‘Fantasize’ from Rob Mello featuring Cecille’s sultry and electro tinged vocal see’s the bass line pitched down and the arrangement stripped back; allowing the wiggling b-line it’s now deserved and selfish moment. Brett Johnson and Dave Barker’s dirty acidic techno track ‘Stucco Homes’ from 2003 has the acid bled out and replaced with cutting hats and a thoroughly modern tech house demeanour that make the creepy “I can’t see my face” vocal suddenly less disturbing. Tolfrey’s final remix doesn’t quite cut it, but in saying that – I’m unconvinced that any remix could top DJ Ali’s ‘You Don’t Know’? Tim Fullers prince-esque vocal fused with tight crunchy beats are of the quality that in my opinion, should be left alone. Radio Slave and Jacob London’s remixes back in 2003 couldn’t match the original and sadly, neither does Tolfrey’s attempt. What all three modern interpretations do effortlessly though, is sit side by side Classic tracks from over a decade ago showing a real understanding of what elements stand the test of time.

Going out on a belting high, Lo Soul’s ‘Lies (Watch Your Lift)’ closes the mix with a perfect funk fuelled slap around the face, proving why Tolfrey’s programming make him the stand out DJ that he is. It’s a shame that the ‘Through The Eyes Of...’ series is digital only; its concept and content deserve to be part of a less disposable attitude than that of the ‘digital only’ realm. Whilst I can’t keep it in the case I would like, this compilation certainly won’t be leaving my playlist, much like the imprints entire output itself...simply timeless.