When last we left St. Albans-based DJ and producer Matt Woodward, aka WDY, he had released a promising, if inconsistent, debut, Take You Home. Over 11 cuts, Woodward imparted an array of emotions, most often without words, that suggested a deep affinity for his hometown and a uniquely curious musical mind. Though a little rough around the edges, it was an intriguing freshman effort.
Woodward is back with a new suite of material, Never Been the Same, also released under his WDY pseudonym. Crafted over 10 months, the eight-song album is even more ambitious in scope than his first outing. But Woodward matches that ambition with refined skills and focus that make his latest one of the most fascinating local electronic music offerings in recent memory.
Much like Take You Home was something of a love letter to his native St. Albans, Never Been the Same functions partly as an ode to his recently adopted hometown of Burlington. This is most obviously apparent on the record's centerpiece, "Burlington." Over more than 11 minutes, the song navigates a variety of sonic terrain, from house to southern hip-hop to Afrobeat to ambient noise that, well, kind of feels like barhopping in the Queen City on a Friday night. Impressively, especially considering the degree of stylistic variance, Woodward's transitions are virtually seamless.
Woodward's ethereal soundscapes are almost universally hypnotic. It's easy to get lost in the chill haze of "Already Home" or the blooming warmth of "Hold On." There's a serene quality to his compositions that somewhat masks the technical precision required to create them. Woodward rarely steps out to overwhelm with jaw-dropping production trickery, though he's likely quite capable of flash. Rather, he tastefully hangs in the background, allowing cuts such as opener "Never Been" and, later, "The Same" to seep into the listener's consciousness. Collectively, the record works as a sort of aural morphine drip.
If Take You Home offered promise, then Never Been the Same suggests potential nearly fully realized. The latest from WDY is a thoughtfully considered and finely executed work from a talented and maturing young artist.