Mat Playford: We Love ... Artist Portraits 01
Ibiza institution We Love… inaugurates a new “Artist Portrait” series with a double-disc set by resident Mat Playford. The first half's a collection of nine originals from Playford under both his own name and Weirdo Police, the outfit he shares with Tom Gray, while the second's a tight and trippy mix disc featuring cuts by Playford, Tim Deluxe, and a host of others. As a result, we're treated to ample helpings of the artist's studio and club sides. Playford's a vocal champion of all things analogue and old-school synths (he's owned more than thirty and cites Jean Michelle Jar, Giorgio Moroder, Herbie Hancock, and Paul Hardcastle as synth artists who've influenced him) and, not surprisingly, the music included on the release—the first half in particular—shines a heavy spotlight on those aspects of his music.
On the first disc's stylistically diverse tracks, Playford's radiant material oozes personality and charm, whether it's presented under his own name or Weirdo Police. “Evidence,” the first of seven Weirdo Police tracks, introduces the album with an ambient-tinted dreamscape of creamy synthesizer tones after which a midtempo drum pulse eases in to lend the track a laid-back propulsion. “Alfredo” offers soulful house swing, while “Luca,” in coupling an old-school disco-funk groove with string accents and chicken-scratch guitar riffing, sounds like Playford paying homage to Barry White and Chic. With respect to the two cuts issued under his own name, piano soloing gives the uptempo “That Experience” a jazzier feel, whereas a breezy downtempo treatment morphs into drum'n'bass during “Transmoog.” A small number of guest shots helps make the album more memorable. The familiar percussive ting of Talvin Singh's tablas adds distinguishing character to the exotic synth-blaze of “Kung Fu,” while the sensual vocalizing of Crazy P's Danielle Moore elevates the string-laden dramatics of “Can't Reach” (compare that to the poppy twist Shelly Poole of Alisha's Attic fame brings to “Pretty Thing” to get an idea of the wide range Playford covers in the originals half).
Brimming with musicality and soul, Playford's superb sixty-five-minute mix set exudes a summery spirit of controlled euphoria and utopian splendour. Crisp house beats bounce through smoothly segued tracks filled with luscious synths, thudding bass lines, and funky guitar riffs, with some of it reminiscent of Full Pup's space-disco style. The mix prepares for liftoff in its iridescent opening cut, a suitably spacey “Last Meteor” mix by Playford of Weirdo Police's “Missed Wish,” before kicking into gear with Ford Inc.'s “Delirium” and never looking back. Playford's slamming mix is grounded in funk and house but sneaks in a jazzy moment or two in the form of electric piano swing and turns really greasy when an organ solo surfaces during an acid-funk episode. With a modest twelve cuts featured, each gets its time in the sun, and the mix never feels like its moving too fast from one track to the next. Choice cuts include Salt City Orchestra's “Downtime,” Joe Morris's “Velocity Heights,” and a steamy Playford rework of Luca C & Brigante's “Different Morals” that's elevated by a ravishingly soulful vocal turn by Ali Love. Tracks by Kerri Chandler & Christopher McCray (“Heaven”), Pariah (“Prism”) and Onionz (“Chasing Death”) also appear before Playford and Tim Deluxe bring it home with gyroscopic swirls of jacking pulsations (and a mix-ending flurry of sax wail) in the mix's closing minutes. All told, it's a fabulous set that more than anything makes one want to visit the island in order to sample its a Balearic spirit at the earliest possible opportunity.