Veteran producer Paul Woolford has recorded under a number of different guises in a career spanning back more than a decade. His latest incarnation, and one of the newest signings to the always brilliant Houndstooth Label is that of Special Request – a moniker birthed last year – under which he has already released four EPs, the fifth of which, the Hardcore EP, follows hot on the heels of the labels’ last releases, Margosa Heights by Second Storey and A Small Murmuration by Snow Ghosts. Featuring remixes from newcomer Anthony Naples alongside jungle re-constructualist Lee Gamble, the EP varies in tempos and styles, mashing influences together to create a work that will work just as well in the club as it does at home.
Kicking off the EP is “Wall to Wall” – a banging number that references classic hardcore, whilst bringing the sound up to date with liberal dashings of syncopated vocal stabs and distorted kicks before the pounding house-meets-breaks drum track enters, ready to get the crowd rocking. It’s reminiscent of some of the tracks Pangaea just released on his new Hadal imprint – unsurprising, as that EP also purported itself as a work of hardcore revivalism. The tune is relentless, minimal, and extremely effective and is sure to be utilized as a dancefloor weapon by legions of house DJs eager to up the ante and bring some different angles to their oft dreary, middle of the road sets.
New Yorker Anthony Naples steps up to the plate next remixing the previously released junglalist inspired “Mindwash”. Here Naples reconstructs the original around pacey, distorted breakbeats, mellow pad work and an extremely clipped out, mournful vocal sample. The pervasive fuzz, crackle and lo-fi aesthetic that surrounds the track harkens back to the lo-quality, pirate radio waves of London’s influential past, giving the track a sense of nostalgic melancholy – a lovely touch for those who long for a return to the days where speedy breaks and jungle ruled the roost. The track fades to nothing, again serving as a reminder of the halcyon days of British music culture, perhaps suggesting that although gone, the sound of the pioneering early ‘90s still lives strong in the memories of those who experienced it, as Woolford did, first hand. It also perhaps suggests that the love and understanding of the ‘hardcore continuum’ and the UK’s musical heritage as a whole, is so strong and intrinsically linked to British culture, that it is passed down through the gene pool, into the DNA of today’s youth – forever to remain relevant – just as instinct and primal fear is passed down through animal genetics.
Stand out track of the EP, the masterful exercise in proto-acid and breakbeat science, “Broken Dreams” – a track that channels mid- to late ‘90s period Aphex Twin almost to a T – is up next exploding into the audio spectrum as soon as it starts. Bubbling, tweaky, reverberated acid lines, combine with hyper-charged, constantly mutating hardcore breaks in a fashion that puts the ubiquitous ‘bass face’, so beloved of drop hungry teenagers, to shame. The only face I could think of pulling when listening to this is one of a dog’s when it puts it head out of a moving car window. You know, all drooly, with tongue and ears flapping in the wind. The manipulation of the breakbeats are, as already implied, masterful, recalling in a credible, non-derivative way the time where Richard D James, Squarepusher, Luke Vibert and the like ruled the roost in the field of credible IDM. The synth sounds are straight out of the Warp Records ‘Artificial Intelligence’ playbook, but are re-imagined and made fresh when combined with the wistful, Burial-esque vocal wailings and ragga vocal samples. It’s a truly magic number that reminds me why I have come to love electronic music so much over the years.
Last up is the remix of “Capsules”, a perfect downbeat follow up for “Broken Dreams”, by sonic auteur Lee Gamble – a name now synonymous with the destruction and reconstruction, from the ground up, of old school rave and jungle as seen on his superb experimentations for the Pan and Entr’acte labels. The tune is almost six minutes of monochrome, haunting ambiance, tech step bass womps, pitched jungle sine wave/808 stabs and smeared, colorless vocal snippets that are all pulled together by the organic hi-hat work and muted drum tracks that join together to revel in an apparent haze of a post-rave fuzzyness. Its morose, paranoid but uplifting at the same time (much like an ecstasy comedown) serving as great finisher to an extremely varied and complete EP.