Nothing dates as quickly as the future. Ten years in the life of Warp Records confirms this truth to be self-evident.
Nothing dates as quickly as the future. Ten years in the life of Warp Records confirms this truth to be self-evident. And in all the time that’s elapsed since Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell graduated from selling to releasing music, these two self-confessed ‘indie kids’ from Sheffield have indelibly stamped their imprint on a journey into sound that has by now developed its own inevitable forward momentum. For in the electronic sphere, to stand still for a second is to die, crushed by the wheels of technology.
All of which is to remind potential consumers of this daunting anniversary programme – three double-CDs or quadruple vinyl box sets – that ten minutes is a long time in dance music, let alone ten years. And many of the tracks on ‘Warp10+1’ are even older than that. These, as the subtitle helpfully confirms, are the tunes without which Warp would never have existed, primitive wires forged in the electro furnaces of Chicago and Detroit. Back then, they sounded alien and unfathomable; now the likes of Steve Poindexter’s ‘Computer Madness’ or Phuture’s ‘Acid Tracks’ feel like quaint relics of a bygone age, as prescient in their anticipation of the ‘future’ as Robbie The Robot or [I]Space: 1999[/I].
Bloody great bleeping noises, though. And that was what mattered. On hearing Farley Jackmaster Funk’s ‘The Acid Life’ the smarter kids on either side of the Pennines resolved to do the same but better. Ergo, 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald (both present on ‘Influences’) and Warp’s own LFO and Nightmares On Wax, bulwarks of ‘Classics 89-92’, along with Sweet Exorcist’s ‘Testone’, to this day the definitive bleep anthem. Stuff like Tricky Disco has weathered better than one might have imagined, but in essence these early years were devoted to refining – at times brilliantly – America’s house blueprints, rather than defining anything radically different.
That, though, was then. The sheer eclecticism of the cast of ‘Remixes’ confirms that forsaking the tyranny of the dancefloor was the best move Warp ever made. Spearheaded by Autechre’s chill impressionism and the acid deviance of Aphex Twin, the label has become a nexus for restless maverick souls, regardless of genre but united by a passion for bucking the norm. Such is the spirit in which one must approach ‘Warp10+3’, a vast splay of indulgent tinkering that’s unavoidably hit-and-miss but very rarely dull. Surgeon reduces LFO’s ‘Nurture’ to a bleak, boneless husk, while Labradford suffuse the same group’s ‘Freeze’ with unimagined warmth. Oval’s take on Squarepusher is the expected glitch barrage. Isan turn Seefeel into a forbidding lo-fi Massive Attack. Plone’s ‘Tricky Disco’ is a sweet and logical retro-futurist revision. John McEntire astral plane-surfs through Nightmares On Wax. With whistling. Lovely.
Anchoring each CD are the project’s most ostensibly traditional rock practitioners. Spiritualized’s presence is a little bit cheeky, since their ‘Electric Mainline’ remix of LFO was actually released in 1994, but it’s a still rapturous meld of ancient and new tech. Mogwai, however, are the ace in the pack. Taking on a relatively obscure Warp nugget – Link’s ‘Arcadian’ from 1994’s ‘Artificial Intelligence II’ collection – they dispense with the content of the original entirely, and instead trace its brooding form onto their own acoustic template, with discreet electro gloops and jitters for good measure, ultimately forging an authentic brand new ‘Gwai classic.
The absence of anything new from Warp’s totemic trouble doll himself, Aphex Twin, is a disappointment, but then seeing as Richard James has already confounded time’s arrow in 1999 by releasing a three-year-old track that sounds utterly unprecedented, he’s excused. Overall, for its combined History Lesson (‘Influences’), Nostalgia Trip (‘Classics 89-92’) and Shock Of The New (‘Remixes’) ‘Warp10’ merits an . Here’s to ten more years of Sheffield steel.