Early Detroit electro meets '80s synth funk on a commendable LP.
Offworld, not unlike Woolford's last album, Bedroom Tapes, channels the past with a tenderness uncommon in his past work as Special Request. If the combination of earnest emotion and booming production—heard on house records like "Mother & Child" and "Heaven & Earth"—hasn't always seemed like Woolford's natural musical disposition, Offworld illustrates how adaptable he's become. "Offworld Memory 3" poises sweetly melodic keys, reminiscent of Numbers-era SOPHIE, against Jackson's reverb-misted vocals from "The Pleasure Principle" and an acid bassline that kneads the groove down to its bones.
You might also recognise "237,000 Miles"—it samples Midway's "Set It Out," the heart of this Omar-S classic. This is where Offworld's concept takes off. Where Jackson's singing on "Offworld Memory 3" seems afloat and slightly detached, Donald Ray Mitchell's vocal is planted deep inside the track's spirographic synth lines. It sounds like it belongs there. That reminded me of the incredible Hell Interface remix of "Midas Touch," and how its poignant mood supplanted, for me at least, the Midnight Star original. On "237,000 Miles" and "Offworld Memory 3," Woolford sounds no less confident than he did on the rave and gabber tailspins of VORTEX.
Inevitably, Woolford's grip on his concept loosens. While that's not a problem on the excellent synthy electro of "Morning Ritual," it is on "Shepperton Moon Landing," whose pumped-up synth chords seem poles apart from the funk of "No UFOs" or "Rhythm Nation." On two other cuts, though, this distraction becomes a virtue. "Arse End Of The Moon" is a breakbeat epic that sounds like the theme for a final-boss fight, its furious synths furrowing into a penetrating gaze. We cool down with "Floatation (SR Offworld Mix)," a cover of The Grid's Balearic classic, where waves lap over NASA comms. For 12 soothing minutes, space travel seems about as fraught as a short-haul flight to Spain.