Every musician should take note of Paul Woolford. Clearly talented, he nonetheless spent most of his career as a journeyman house/techno producer, respected by many but still merging into the background of the scene. He had his big hit with the barmy ‘Erotic Discourse’ in 2006, and his 2011 remix of T Williams hinted at his fascination with UK pirate radio sounds – but nothing could have prepared us for what came next.
At 38, as Special Request, Woolford has just turned club music upside down. Plenty of people have been delving into the roots of jungle lately with varying success – the awkward, sometimes beautiful posturing of Zomby, the deliriously committed fury of Congo Natty – but Special Request is something else entirely.
This whole album is built around the breakbeat cut-ups of that fiery point of greatest intensity between 1993 and 95, but it’s neither boringly reverent in recreating the original sound, nor geekily experimental. Instead, somehow, Woolford takes that hyper-hardcore, tailors it sonically for the Funktion One era – weaving in Detroit electro and Hessle/Hyperdub/Tectonic bass and space – but retains all the rolling syncopation and raw soundsystem power that made it so breathtaking in the first place.
It’s impossible to pick single high points, as this is an album that works cumulatively, but for the uninitiated the Lana Del Rey remake, ‘Ride’ (which appears on Disc 2 with various previously released tracks and remixes), is the way in, purely for its instant vocal hooks. It may take a listen or two to get the hang of the disorientating sonics, gleaming surfaces and razor-sharp edges – but you’d better believe it: once you’re drawn in, you’re in for the ride, and you won’t want to stop. A thrilling creative renaissance on so many levels.
File under Cyborg breakbeat soul
Download ‘Undead,’ ‘Ride’, ‘Broken Dreams’, ‘Hackney Parrot VIP’
Like this? Try Remarc ‘Unreleased Dubs 94–96’ (Planet Mu)