Paul Woolford has done it again. When the first Special Request album came out it was an incredibly substantial piece of work, a double album that somehow kept you hooked the whole way through with its inventive beat dropping and cavernous, cinematic soundscapes. If anything ‘Belief System’ has raised the bar even further. Woolford blends the past and the future better than almost any electronic artist around, keeping an obvious love of early rave and drum & bass but bringing in new and gripping ways of treating it. Most of ‘Belief System’ is instrumental, and in the second half Woolford explores dark soundscapes that are on occasion completely free of beats but still riddled with tension. When the tension breaks out the results are thrilling, with the likes of ‘Curtain Twitcher’ going for the jugular. ‘Change’ has an urgent tempo but a strangely comforting vocal, and as with ‘Catacombs’ it has a completely compelling and inventive combination of colours and beats – Woolford somehow able to switch between drum & bass and four to the floor beats without breaking a step. The rolling and booming lower end of ‘Make It Real’ is brilliantly done, as are the moody but powerful contours of ‘A Light In The Darkness’. Much of Woolford’s writing is of the dark and brooding variety, but there are some incredibly strong force fields at work here, and a use of field recordings and analogue textures brings it all to vital, pulsing life. As with the first record, an absolutely essential listen – no matter what your genre.
Ben Hogwood
5 out of 5