Special Request 'Belief System' (Houndstooth)
‘Belief System’ is not only Special Request’s most definitive piece of work, but it will also, probably, prove to be Paul Woolford’s magnum opus. While Special Request arrived amidst a wave of breakbeat nostalgia and rave revivalism, this new double-album finds the project develop into so much more. ‘Belief System’ is an obviously autobiographical work, not least in the title, which hints at the lifelong investment Woolford has made in dance music. But there are the various found-sound recordings of pirate radio shout-outs that hark back to his teenage days tuned into Bradford’s PCR, too, and some of the music is also sourced from rediscovered tapes recorded back in 1993, when he was experimenting with his first drum machines. Tracks such as ‘Tiresias’, meanwhile, are infused with the same dramatic emotional sweeps that make the music he’s released under his own name so big on the festival circuit. Elsewhere, ‘Change’ is cavernous and heartbroken with skeletal beats, ‘Curtain Twitchers’ is a speed-riddled frenzy of drums and whirring lasers, and ‘Brainstorm’ is a joyous rush of rave euphoria. But there are surprises, too, which ensure the album remains enthralling despite it lasting over 100 minutes. Chief among them is the LP’s second half, as the jungle, techno and breakbeat sounds make way for 40 minutes of cinematic sound design. From string-laden and contemplative to foreboding and militant, this section conjures an apocalyptic mind-movie so absorbing that, when it’s done, you’re left emotionally drained, as if waking from an intense dream. ‘Belief System’, then, is a comprehensive mapping of Woolford – and indeed UK electronic music’s – musical DNA. Kristan J Caryl
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