- Six years ago, in an interview with Resident Advisor, Paul Woolford described how, as a teenager growing up in Leeds, he would spend Saturday lunchtimes listening to a Bradford-based pirate radio station, Paradise City Radio. "You would hear 'Mentasm' next to Patti Day, 'Right Before My Eyes,' next to a Soul II Soul record," he said. "There were no rules at all. And by that point, it was every night I had the radio on pirate radio." A year after that interview, a run of hand-stamped 12-inches emerged from Special Request, an alias of Woolford's that sought to capture the sensations from that era: the energy and freedom of pirate radio, the rowdiness of rave, hardcore and jungle, and the sense of awe that came from discovering those worlds through a dance floor or the twist of a dial.
Fabriclive 91, Woolford's first commercial mix as Special Request, seems like a natural medium for conveying those feelings. The variety of music Woolford listened to on PCR is more easily applied on a mix CD than, say, Soul Music, the 12-track album he released four years ago. The range—electro, ambient, jungle, drum & bass, techno—on Fabriclive 91 is indeed wider. The transitions that connect these tracks reflect the hands-on DJing style suggested in the Special Request remix of Tessela's "Hackney Parrot," which contained several in-built rewinds and MC chat. But Fabriclive 91 is sparing in its use of backspins and crossfader slams. Even as Woolford says the mix moves "into the realm of the unhinged" when he drops jungle, some of the CD's most crucial moments are realised through discipline and subtlety.
The ping-pong delays of "Psychic Vampires," one of six Special Request tracks on Fabriclive 91, skim the top of Plastician's "The Lift." Only the high-end of Woolford's track is audible, but it's enough to preserve the mix's rhythmic elasticity. ("The Lift" also sounds more supple when slowed down, as it is here.) Another segue demonstrates Woolford's clever use of layers. When the heavy VIP version of DJ Trace & Nico's "Monkeys" is withdrawn from the mix, a dribble of tones from Keith Fullerton Whitman's "Stereo For Serge Modular Part Two" is exposed. Placed in one of Fabriclive 91's most intense passages, Whitman's track is both a relief and an abstract rendering of the dread that oozes from "Monkeys," which is brought back into the mix, and the track that follows, Nolige's "Adrenaline (2016 Edit)."
Fabriclive 91's connective tissue wouldn't matter so much were it not holding together so many excellent tracks, many of which are grouped to form discrete chapters. Claro Intelecto's gently anthemic "Peace Of Mind" emerges from a series of tracks that tour various frequencies—from the bright piano and idiophone melodies of Caustic Window's "Cordialatron" to the mid-range acid of DJ Stingray's "Solitude" and the bassy whip of "The Lift." After some mood-resetting ambient from Abul Mogard, Dexter's "No More" introduces an electro segment whose restless grooves and salty tones underscore its proximity to the sort of music with which Special Request is generally associated. The electro acid of "Redrum (Thrash Mix)," produced by Woolford, ties up that part of the mix with a resonant 303 bassline and, later, a soaring choral synth. As with the mix itself, "Redrum (Thrash Mix)" challenges one of the received wisdoms about Woolford's project: it isn't so much a resurrection of interlocking genres—rave, bleep and bass, hardcore, jungle, drum & bass—as a reemphasis of the attitude that gave them life.
One particular passage on Fabriclive 91, starting with Cristian Vogel's "Atomic Layers," defines both the mix's electric energy and the suspense that charges it. On the smudged new age of "Atomic Layers," a monologue describes how "whenever we hear sounds... we are no longer the same." In the portentous strings and bass of the next track, Shapednoise and Justin K Broadrick's "Enlightenment," euphoria curdles into horror. The track hisses and respires for what seems like an age, with a predatory patience. Dillinja's "Deadly Deep Subs (Remix)"'s whistling melodies and multi-pitch sub bass burst into the mix as though on a rescue mission, pulling the listener back from the abyss.
Explaining what he had in mind for Fabriclive 91, Woolford said: "This mix is about heightened emotions and making them as contrasting and intense as they can be." In doing so, his sense of purpose seems renewed—the mix reasserts what Special Request is, and also suggests what it could yet become. The first Special Request track on the mix is the glassy ambient of "Telepathic Dog"; another, "Replicant," is cinematic jungle; his intricate drum programming on "Stairfoot Lane Bunker" shares drum & bass's technical emphasis. Memories can fade and scenes can decay, but the feelings and ideas that fuel them need not age. Special Request is proof of that.
01. Aleksi Perälä - UK74R1619170
02. Special Request - Telepathic Dog
03. Caustic Window - Cordialatron
04. DJ Stingray - Solitude
05. Plastician - The Lift
06. Special Request - Psychic Vampires
07. Claro Intelecto - Peace Of Mind
08. Polygon Window - Audax Powder
09. Abul Mogard - Desires Are Reminiscences By Now
10. Dexter - No More
11. 214 - Frostbite
12. Alden Tyrell - Obsession Btz
13. Stanislav Tolkachev - See You Tomorrow
14. Special Request – Redrum (Thrash Mix)
15. Stefan Vincent - Aquilae
16. Special Request - The True Knot
17. Cristian Vogel - Atomic Layers
18. Shapednoise feat. Justin K Broadrick - Enlightenment
19. Dillinja - Deadly Deep Subs (Remix) (2015 Remaster)
20. Forest Drive West - Turtle Break
21. Special Request - Replicant
22. Rood Project - Thunder
23. Special Request - Stairfoot Lane Bunker
24. DJ Trace & Nico - Monkeys (DJ Future & Eric Electric VIP)
25. Keith Fullerton Whitman - Stereo Music For Serge Modular Part Two
26. Nolige - Adrenaline (2016 Edit)
27. ASC - (Event #4)
28. Mika Vainio - Omertà
29. Carl Craig - Technoloambient (Max Dub)
30. Abul Mogard - Desires Are Reminiscences By Now