Special Request

Soul Music

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British DJ/producer Paul Woolford is typically known for producing deep house and tech-house, with a vast catalog stretching back to the early 2000s, including work under his own name as well as pseudonyms like Bobby Peru and Skip Donahue. In 2012, he began releasing a series of white label 12"s as Special Request, with tracks paying tribute to U.K. pirate radio and the hardcore continuum, ranging from breakbeat hardcore to jungle to garage. Soul Music is a full-length exploration of these sounds, and it's a remarkably focused, thoroughly exciting release. While the dance music press has spilled ink over how these sounds have been making a comeback for a number of years, they never truly went away for the hardcore faithful, and Woolford demonstrates that he seems to live and breathe thick basslines and mashed-up breakbeats. He doesn't entirely try to replicate the grittiness of the earliest rave and jungle productions -- there's definitely an up-to-date studio polish to these tracks. They may be refined and properly structured, but there's still plenty of firepower to them. The album's first few tracks are closer to a rough, slightly industrial brand of electro-techno, with only "Undead" injecting an enticing dose of rave pianos and smashing breaks. By "Lockjaw," the album dives into ragga DJ chatter, rolling basslines, and fluctuating breakbeats. "Ride VIP" (an instrumental version of Woolford's Lana Del Rey remix) is even further over the edge, with demented Hoover synths and mutilated Amen breaks, with a sudden detour into a heavy funk bassline. "Soundboy Killer" is even rougher, with more paranoid synths, sirens, and a subdued vocal sample, all with even heavier, choppier breaks. Faster, techstep-leaning tracks like "Black Ops" and "Capsules" venture further down the rabbithole of Amen choppage, recalling producers like Remarc and Bizzy B. A voice during "Deranged" states "complete darkness" right before everything goes haywire, with exasperated, filtered sighs trapped under the grinding bass and tumultuous drums. Bringing the dark side of '90s jungle and rave into the 2010s, Soul Music is exhilarating, and just about perfect. [The album's CD and digital releases include a second disc, compiling some of Special Request's early 12"s as well as remixes by Anthony "Shake" Shakir, Hieroglyphic Being, Lee Gamble, and others.]

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