Though the jungle retromania and pirate-radio references that zig zag throughout Paul Woolford's Hardcore EP as Special Request will undoubtedly garner plenty of attention, they're ultimately secondary to the record's unfiltered musical impact. Convulsing with menace, the EP captures a throbbing intensity that transcends era. Ripped through by seasick basslines and thunderous breaks, the tracks on Hardcore are haphazardly arranged, embracing vocalized emotion and scuzzy production to fantastic effect.
The drum machines on Hardcore may be desiccated, but the music's dank enviroment doesn't sacrifice intrigue. "Wall to Wall" is coiled tightly around a stuttering vocal sample and a heavily distorted kick drum, its minuscule finger snaps overshadowed by reverberant claps. Anthony Naples' remix of "Mindwash" throws years of cigarette smoke and a husky female vocal over the original's hacking synth line and pads, and it simultaneously feels like the most dated and relevant track on the release—Naples is too young to have lived through jungle, but seems to have fully absorbed the echoes of its sickly disorientation and foggy psychedelia.
"Broken Dreams" is the standout, with droplets of acid sprinkled throughout and a belching bassline that careens around the percussion like a door repeatedly slammed into its frame by a windstorm. Every time it threatens to crumble from a lack of fidelity, the grouchy bass bubbles back up with supportive menace, and though the middle section is an interlude of pillowy bliss, it's temporary, as manic hi-hats and a drillbit drop quickly jackhammer back in. For his remix of "Capsules," Lee Gamble works in the same vein of his Diversions 1994-1996 release, drawing out a morose pulse over aquatic pads. It's a somnolent rework far more suited to a narcotized afterparty than the ferocious pulse that Woolford offers on the rest of the fittingly titled Hardcore.