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Dance - Released March 24, 2017 | Fabric Worldwide

Paul Woolford uses his Special Request moniker to pay tribute to U.K. pirate radio, with tracks recalling the darker edges of jungle and rave music. His contribution to the Fabriclive mix CD series plays more like a creative free-form radio set than a night out at a club, weaving tense ambient interludes in between left-field electro and jungle tracks. The mix's first half includes tracks by two early Aphex Twin aliases (Caustic Window and Polygon Window), as well as electro producers such as Detroit's DJ Stingray and the Netherlands' Dexter, with a seamless foray into U.K. garage courtesy of Plastician's "The Lift." After the bright, breezy electro cut "The True Knot" (one of several Woolford originals included), the mix swiftly takes a turn for the dark side. Following a scientific interlude by Cristian Vogel, Shapednoise and Justin Broadrick signal oncoming doom with the corroded bass and swarming synths of "Enlightenment." The fury is unleashed with several head-spinning jungle tracks, including Dillinja's "Deadly Deep Subs [Remix]" and two more excellent Special Request originals (both of which were also released in unmixed form on the Stairfoot Lane Bunker EP). Woolford seems to prefer the type of jungle that includes complex, heavily edited breaks and shocking bass rumblings, but he finds room for Rood Project's lush, slow-building intelligent drum'n'bass classic "Thunder." Other than a few older tracks such as that, Woolford places more emphasis on tracks by newer artists taking tear-out jungle in explosive new directions. The storm clears out by the end of the mix, concluding with a majestic ambient composition by Abul Mogard. Fabriclive 91 is a breathtaking mix that drifts between conflicting moods, yet still holds together as a cohesive journey. ~ Paul Simpson
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Dance - Released May 31, 2019 | Houndstooth

The first of several Special Request albums planned for 2019, Vortex has no ambitions other than being a batch of "bowel-evacuating bangers." This is a sharp turn from 2017's Belief System, which had much more of a build-up and pay-off with its dance tracks, then diverted into cinematic compositions during its second part. Here, there's only a brief, fizzy intro before he launches into the flanged breakbeats of "SP4NN3R3D." "Ardkore Dolphin" sounds exactly like its title, merging heavy, crackly breakbeats with atmospheric jungle synths, but this seems to be one of the most explicitly nostalgic tracks here. "Fahrenheit 451" recycles the "got to keep the fire burning" sample used in many a rave anthem, but otherwise it's surrounded by a sort of octagonal bass line and heavy 4/4 kick drums. "Levitation," also perfectly named, slaps rolling breakbeats onto twitching, sky-gazing synths, and sounds fitting for an alien hardcore rave. Things get a bit more hyper with "Fett," another flanged-breaks rinse-out, leading up to "A Gargantuan Melting Face Floating Effortlessly Through the Stratosphere," which sort of feels like a somewhat hollowed-out happy hardcore track. There's hard, thumping kicks and ecstatic synth arpeggios, but Paul Woolford doesn't add any other elements -- he just cranks the tempo up until everyone goes loony, then slows it back down again. Clearly Woolford knocked out these tracks for fun, and while there isn't quite as much to them as his previous albums, Vortex is still quite fun, and that's all that matters. ~ Paul Simpson
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Dance - Released October 13, 2017 | Houndstooth

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Paul Woolford is a man of many talents and aliases, and he's produced tracks in numerous styles, particularly focusing on house and electro. He began the Special Request project in order to pay tribute to U.K. pirate radio, reconstructing the darker sounds of jungle and breakbeat hardcore with the production values of the 2010s. Following a nearly flawless 2013 debut full-length (Soul Music) and a series of exhilarating EPs for pioneering U.K. dance label XL Recordings, as well as a genre-blending Fabriclive mix, Belief System is Special Request's second full-length. The album's first part is a mixture of dark, suspenseful electro and break-heavy dancefloor killers, sequenced as a peaks-and-valleys DJ journey. Woolford does bring the hardcore, but he places value in buildup and payoff. The midsection of the first CD is loaded with bangers, including the knocking, somewhat melancholy garage-influenced tracks "Sanctuary" and "Change." Then there's the heavier, acid-fried techno single "Curtain Twitcher," soon followed by the more hardcore "Make It Real" and "Brainstorm," complete with DJ chatter and Prodigy-esque Kool Keith samples, respectively. "Leviathan" and "Replicant (Nexus 7 VIP)" venture even further into darkside jungle, complete with damaged Amen breaks and twisted robot bleeps. On the album's second part, Woolford goes in an entirely different direction, adding a whole new dimension to the Special Request project. Expanding on the music's cinematic qualities, he dispenses with beats almost entirely, instead illustrating imaginary movie scenes with tense, creeping synth-strings and brass. On "Transmission," a spiral of vibrating bass forms a sort of mesmerizing rhythm, and both "Reckoning" and "Ouroboros" contain slow, dramatic pounding. The project's new direction is unexpected, and it works quite well. Woolford is still more of a master of dubplate pressure than cinematic soundscapes, but this is a promising direction for him. ~ Paul Simpson
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Dance - Released March 2, 2018 | Houndstooth

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R&B - Released October 26, 2018 | MRE Entertainment

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 30, 2015 | XL Recordings

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Dance - Released October 21, 2013 | Houndstooth

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.] ~ Paul Simpson
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R&B - Released April 26, 2019 | MRE Entertainment

R&B - Released June 1, 2018 | MRE Entertainment

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R&B - Released March 5, 2013 | MRE Entertainment

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Dance - Released July 29, 2013 | Houndstooth

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Dance - To be released June 28, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Dance - Released May 16, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Dance - Released May 13, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Dance - Released February 16, 2018 | Houndstooth

Blues - Released June 1, 2018 | MRE Entertainment

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Dance - Released June 20, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Dance - Released May 29, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Dance - Released June 11, 2019 | Houndstooth

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Soul - Released February 18, 2013 | MRE Entertainment

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