Review: Special Request Channels Space Age Techno On 'Offworld'

Paul Woolford continues to state his case for artist of the year with this exceptional new Special Request album.
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Special Request Paul Woolford

Special Request / Paul Woolford

Is there anyone having a better year than Paul Woolford? He has been releasing so much great music in 2019 that it has become a meme. In addition to music under his proper name, he has also unleashed three albums under his alias Special Request, the latest coming today titled Offworld.

While Woolford only offers this description of the album, “what if Jam & Lewis signed to Metroplex?” there is so much more. This album feels like it is the soundtrack to a space odyssey to a far, far planet. It could be that after seeing Ad Astra this week, my mind is still on journeys into space, but that felt like the logical journey to be on with an album titled Offworld.

With the album opener “237,000 Miles,” we get his original idea distilled into its purest form on this LP. The song brings together soulful male vocals with sci-fi synths in a combination that shouldn’t really work, but somehow they do. He carries that spirit into the next track “Shepperton Moon Landing,” with an opening melody that then morphs into slow-moving space-age synth work as a woman's shouts from a distance are cut up and added to the track.

That magic continues into the meat of that album with fluttering arps on “Offworld Memory 3” and soaring melodies and powerful drums on “Front Screen Projection,” which feel like companion tracks. The wonderfully titled “Arse End Of The Moon” brings in some Vangelis sci-fi vibes with strings and brass that descend into a breakbeat rhythm before dragging you down into a beatless black hole of synths. “Morning Ritual” offers a hopeful reprieve out of your black hole with soaring synths and some heavy drums before you end up on the final part of your space odyssey.

His remix of The Grid “Floatation” feels like the final leg of this journey into some planet far away. The NASA communications recordings help make it feel more authentic.

If you imagine this album is your soundtrack to space travel deep to a far world, the pace of the album is you soaring thousands of miles an hour towards your new home. It is stirring, hypnotic and spacey, blending sci-fi melodies with gritty breakbeat, techno and UK house drums. In the year of Paul Woolford, going Offworld with his output would be an easy way to soundtrack your journey.

Pick up a copy now via Houndstooth.

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