music is math…

Warp is 20

Warp is one of the great British independent labels, alongside names such as Factory and Beggars Banquet, rising up from its humble beginnings in a Sheffield record shop to producing both successful and groundbreaking music.

Warp has released some of the most important records in the history of electronic music, from Aphex Twin’s ‘Selected Ambient Works: Volume II’ to Boards of Canada’s breakthrough ‘Music has the Right to Children’. As well as electronica and dance, Warp has recently signed several “indie” bands and even released films (including two BAFTA winning works; ‘This is England’ and a surreal short film by satirist Chris Morris.

It is the curse of independent record labels that, no matter how great their contribution to our music and culture, a small survey of people on the street will probably draw mostly blank expressions. For 20 years Warp have been putting out some of the best music around whilst commercially remaining in the shadows of the more powerful major labels.

So, in 20 years Warp has given us an astonishing collection of groundbreaking music, not to mention a website from which to download the tracks legally and DRM-free. After two decades of promoting some of the best in alternative and creative music and film, Warp is very much deserving of praise this year.

1. Aphex Twin – Blue Calx

A beautiful extract from Richard D. James’ ‘Selected Ambient Works Volume II’, released in 1994. James is, like several others on Warp, among the most talented pioneers of electronica. Combining his knowledge of electronics with a curiously dark creative side, Aphex Twin is a powerful musical force.

2. Boards of Canada – Turquoise Hexagon Sun

Although Warp have a habit of signing “different” artists, Boards of Canada go beyond merely being different. As this song demonstrates, BoC somehow blend psychedelic dance beats with strangely nostalgic melodies to produce a truly individual sound.

3. LFO – LFO

Warp’s first release to chart in the top 20. A classic techno tune from the height of the UK rave culture that the label was an instrumental part of.

4. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

20 years on and things sound a little different. Surprisingly, this American indie band are signed to Warp. Although it’s a long way from Aphex Twin’s ambient techno, Grizzly Bear are still an intensely creative band making beautiful music in more traditional ways. Guitars and vocal harmonies haven’t sounded this fresh for a long time.

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