After the astounding success of his viciously compelling 2006 single Erotic Discourse, Paul Woolford somewhat disappeared from view. While the producer continued to work, notably issuing 2011’s excellent Stolen collaboration with Psychatron, it wasn’t until Woolford donned his Special Request guise last year that the world really started paying attention. Across a series of four self-released, vinyl-only singles, Special Request evoked the crushed, blistering power of the warehouse rave through a modernisation of classic jungle and DnB templates. With standout tracks Lolita and Mindwash, Woolford has decimated many of the UK’s discerning dancefloors over the last year, and now for the first time he turns to the rising star of Fabric-affiliated label Houndstooth to issue his fullest Special Request excursion to date.
Woolford offers two original cuts here, opening the EP with the hefty stomp of Wall To Wall. All the Special Request trademarks are here: the sunken kick compressed to within an inch of its life alongside a stark, brutal percussive field, all mixed with a healthy dose of distortion. The clipped, syncopated vocal cuts and swandiving bass hits towards the close cap off a tune of powerfully destructive proportions, yet the track is still somehow outshone by Woolford’s other offering, the nasty pirate-radio homage of Broken Dreams. Here rebounding bass notes underpin a constantly shifting array of surgical break cuts, resulting in a tune that conjures the breathless energy of the UK’s hardcore continuum at its best without ever sounding like pastiche, interrupted by a blissed-out breather of a female vocal, preparing the listener and the ‘floor for another three minutes of mayhem.
So far, this is what we’ve come to expect from Special Request; a pair of formidable excursions into breakbeat science, even if this is indeed an uncommonly fine pair. Yet here is where Houndstooth’s expert guiding voice makes itself heard, the two original cuts are backed by a superb pair of remixes every bit as fascinating as Woolford’s original mixes. Firstly Brooklyn house youngster Anthony Naples takes on Mindwash in his ‘Eternal Mix’, an appropriately titled rework that looks at hardcore through a thick gauze of nostalgia and deterioration, sapping the strength of Woolford’s breaks and layering mournful pads and vocal clips over the top. It’s a brilliant idea, and more than anything proves Naples’ capabilities outside of the house mould, but one can’t help but feel that the track is over far too soon, disappointingly fading out after only three minutes.
The second choice of remixer is just as inspired, as Houndstooth invites jungle distortionist Lee Gamble to take on the unreleased Capsules. This beautifully patient rework builds a detailed field of ambience, both glossy and desiccated, rounding off a powerhouse EP on a superbly atmospheric, introspective note. Woolford seems unstoppable at the moment, as his junglist tendencies rule the underground while his latest Hotflush release Untitled is taking over Ibiza. What Houndstooth have drawn from him is another stellar addition to the Special Request canon and an exceptional pair of remixes, a package that rejoices in the power of real ‘ardcore while simultaneously mourning its loss.