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.