- Seven years since the massive success of "Erotic Discourse," Paul Woolford has rebooted his career. Most recently he's shown an affinity with a new wave of UK DJs and producers, topping off a string of bass-heavy tracks with the uplifting piano house of "Untitled," one of this year's biggest summer jams. But even that one pales in comparison to his music as Special Request, a project he started last year as an outlet for his more junglist leanings. In early 2012, the slam of drum breaks felt intoxicating, radical even; a year later, it's fast becoming the sound du jour, typified by producers like Tessela. But if Soul Music does anything, it underlines the primacy of the conceptual endeavor that is Special Request.
The Special Request sound hasn't changed dramatically since those first releases. Each track is built from the same rave-era foundation of creaky breaks, groaning basslines and shooting-star synths. It's a relentless but nimble assault that manages to sidestep both the masculine aggression of techno and the conservatism of house. Soul Music offers up endless variations on this set of sounds, and does much more than pummel the listener into submission. Check the smooth piano in "Undead" or the pure pop basslines of "Body Armour," which climb and fall like overexcited children at a playground.
Woolford has spoken before about his search for what he calls an illicit quality in music, a feeling that made pirate radio so exciting in the '90s. Polished as it is, Soul Music doesn't fit that bill perfectly, but there is something attractively raw about it in spite of its own perfectionism. On the chaotic "Lockjaw," the punchy chord progression feels like it's trading blows with the Reese basslines. "Soundboy Killer" floods an R&B sample in caustic syrup and unleashes time-stretched breaks, revelling in the pure joy of sound manipulation (like the best early jungle itself).
Soul Music feels a bit too modern to slot in perfectly with the music it's pining for, but that's part of what makes it a success. In a way it recalls Instra:mental's 2011 LP Resolution 653, looking back just far enough to escape the complacency of the present. Woolford does so with a balls-to-the-wall conviction that puts pure emphasis on the dance floor, with a fuck-you attitude to anyone who might not like it. And even though he might not be alone in making this kind of music anymore, he is by himself at the top of the heap.
01. Special Request - Forbidden
02. Special Request - Undead
03. Special Request - Cold Blooded
04. Special Request - Body Armour
05. Special Request - Lockjaw
06. Special Request - Ride VIP
07. Special Request - Soundboy Killer
08. Special Request - Broken Dreams
09. Special Request - Black Ops
10. Special Request - Capsules
11. Special Request - Deranged
12. Special Request - Descent
01. Tessela - Hackney Parrot (Special Request VIP)
02. Lana Del Rey - Ride (Special Request Remix)
03. Special Request - Mindwash
04. Special Request - Alone
05. Special Request - Mindwash (Anthony Naples Aftermath Remix)
06. Special Request - Lolita (Warehouse Mix)
07. Special Request - Vapour
08. Special Request - Deflowered (Kassem Mosse & Mix Mup Remix)
09. Special Request - Mindwash (Anthony Shakir Remix)
10. Special Request - Capsules (Lee Gamble Full Length Remix)
11. Special Request - Deflowered (Hieroglyphic Being Remix)