Special Request, Hardcore EP

[Houndstooth]


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The ghost recall of pirate radio transmission is a particularly visceral and romantic muse for producers who grew up listening to the stations that flourished in cities across the UK during the late 80s and early 90s. Perhaps because pirate radio was primarily about mystery: you could wait months before IDing that elusive track, have no idea what the DJ playing you records looked like, and be drawn into a bizarre audio world with its own parlance, community and exclusive dubplates. Transmission could cease instantly, through rival station sabotage or police interference. In the current age of quick-flowing information and instant analysis, it is easy to see why the era continues to provide such passionate artistic response. Throughout the Special Request series, Paul Woolford has been offering his own roughneck artistry on this most vital of musical threads.

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However, Woolford’s Special Request series has not just explored pirate radio culture; it has been particularly interested in the combination of elation and paranoia that enveloped the rave scene during the early hardcore years. As such, it is Reese bass, time-stretched vocals, and rough amen breaks that have featured prominently, albeit in a form compatible with today’s bass crop. The Hardcore EP adds a deeper shade to the series, with remixes from Anthony Naples and Lee Gamble bringing a spectral note. The EP leads with “Wall To Wall,” a pounding drum-machine workout that feels like a mean, robotic beatdown. Imagine Stingray 313 jamming with Surgeon after a night of cheap speed and cheaper whiskey: a filthy and brutally propulsive cut. Anthony Naples’ “Eternal Mix” of Woolford’s “Mindwash” is brimming with melancholic undercurrent, its chopped breaks drenched in distortion. “Broken Dreams,” meanwhile, is a true roller, hinging on jittery stop-start bass and layered breaks underpinned by a meaty kick pattern. Close your eyes and astral travel to Bagleys, 1994. Lee Gamble is a natural choice for remixer on this EP, having explored similar territories on last year’s Diversions 1994–1996 LP, albeit from a wildly different angle. His remix of “Capsules” navigates the aftermath of a spent rave, the empty dance floor confessing its stories. This is a particularly compelling EP. Woolford’s cuts bring total intensity, while the remixes distill the wistfulness of the fast-approaching dawn: virtuoso movements.

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