Switched On – Special Request: Offworld (Houndstooth)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Paul Woolford’s third album of the year under the Special Request moniker attempts to answer a question. What if Jam & Lewis signed to Metropolis?

The thought of one of soul music’s finest production duo hanging out with Juan Atkins at the beginning of another era in Detroit musical history in the mid-1980s is an irresistible one, and Woolford’s ambitious attempt to bring the combination to life is what powers Offworld.

What’s the music like?

There are seven expansive tracks, mostly instrumental and rich in analogue colour, put together with Woolford’s trademark instinctive approach.

Immediately it finds the sweet spot with the booming bass, analogue highs and strong vocal of 237,000 miles. More typical of the album are the vast spaces evoked by Offworld Memory 3. Front Screen Projection looks back to Jean Michel Jarre with its synth sound and riff, but forward with its no-nonsense breakbeat, while Arse End Of The Moon, a classic Woolford title, has sharper sounds and clattering, big beat percussion. Morning Ritual is also a lovely track, a brooding instrumental, before a rather fine remix of The Grid’s Floatation, signing off with an affectionate quarter-hour of expansive ambience and a nicely done retro beat.

Does it all work?

Once again – yes. Woolford never pads his albums out too much, either in texture or duration, so while Offworld is not much longer than an extended EP without the Grid remix, it works brilliantly well.

Is it recommended?

Yes indeed – as much as the first two albums of this year’s crop did. Paul Woolford is on a roll right now and it’s up to us to keep up!

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