Special Request

Special Request – ‘Hardcore’ EP (Houndstooth)

Debuting as Special Request last year, Woolford has thus far self-released four singles under the alias, with this fifth instalment proving to be the most fully realised and impressive work so far thanks to the assistance of some shrewdly chosen remixers. Previous releases have seen him somehow channel nearly all of the genres of the hardcore continuum into frenetic dancefloor bombs, and this EP proves to be no exception. Although Woolford has gone on record with his nostalgia towards the attitude and culture of the pirate radio era to which his Special Request moniker slyly references, he crucially manages to avoid veering in to pastiche, creating something which is distinctly current.

On opening cut ‘Wall To Wall’, Woolford evokes a sweat soaked warehouse rave via an array of pounding drum machine sounds. Whist the barrage of subterranean kicks and snares references the relentless minimalism of Detroit pioneers such as Robert Hood and Jeff Mills, Woolford punctuates the track with stabs of distorted bass and an insistent muffled voice to add some colour. Not searching for subtlety or depth here, Woolford simply wants to get bodies moving – something this track achieves and then some.

New York newcomer Antony Naples reworks the previously released Mindwash, with his ‘Eternal Mix’ providing an interesting take on a track that began life as an amen driven stepper. Naples saps the energy from the original and takes it into sullen, moody territory with the aid of the swathes of feedbac which he applies on to the track’s chopped and clipped breaks. A snippet of female vocal arrives towards the end, with Naples giving it a Burial-esque level of wistfulness to add to the track’s melancholic tone.

Stand out ‘Broken Dreams’ catches Woolford building upon a menacing stop-start rhythm by slathering jungle breaks on top. The groove this generates is allowed to roll for a brief while before Woolford once again demonstrates his masterful command over breaks, allowing them to spill over and wreak havoc. Somehow managing to accommodate tear out breaks madness next to the plaintive sampled garage vox that make up the titular refrain; ‘Broken Dreams’ shows the exciting range of Woolford’s talents.

Lee Gamble rounds off the EP with his slow burning, downcast remix of ‘Capsules’. His two 2012 albums on experimental outlet PAN showed Gamble’s capacity to deconstruct jungle and rave in compelling fashion, and this is exactly what he does here. Exuding the tension and paranoia of the post-rave twilight zone, Gamble uses a sparse arrangement that allows each part to dominate at points, with the vocal, snares and bass all deployed intermittently to atmospheric effect. With the two club-ready tracks from Woolford contrasting sharply with the depth of the remixes, this is a release laden with quality from start to finish.

The ‘Hardcore’ EP will be released July 22nd on Houndstooth.

Christian Murphy