Paul Woolford found prominence in 2013 under the alias Special Request with his critically acclaimed by criminally underheard debut LP, Soul Music. Peddling a brand of sleek electronic music that draws heavily from early '90s U.K. rave and Detroit techno scenes, Woolford, now in his early 40s, can hardly be labelled a throwback artist, as the Leeds artist experienced these scenes firsthand.
Belief System, collects a whopping 23 songs into its hour and 40 minute runtime, going back to material Woolford composed as early as 1993. It could have been a bloated mess of endless polyrhythms and synth effects, but Woolford's sophomore LP is a fascinating, adventurous and re-listenable collection of ideas, sounds and downright danceable jams — at least at first. Although there's a healthy appetite at the moment for nostalgic electronic music, Woolford never rests on one sound, instead blending ultra-melodic, catchy vocals ("Make It Real," "Brainstorm") amidst left-field noise excursions ("Leviathan," "Replicant (Nexus 7 VIP)").
Unfortunately, just as the LP passes its midway point, Belief System begins to degenerate, as the album's back half consists mostly of shapeless, ultra-minimal ambient and soundtrack-style compositions, with the nearly inaudible "Qoriqzona" serving as the album's nadir. Belief System should clearly have been released as two separate albums; one that's a candidate for album of the year and one that's completely forgettable. (Houndstooth)