Various Artists Warp20 (Box Set) Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

A perfectly sumptuous celebration of one of the UK’s most important labels.

Mike Diver 2009

What does Warp mean to you?

If you’re of the school of thought that all computer-derived beats should be banished from record stores, the racks instead filled with hairy men and their guitars, then please, pass along. Your narrow-minded opinion is, to be polite, depressing.

If, though, the pioneering Sheffield label means the absolute world to you, responsible as it is for the introduction of artists as wildly disparate as Aphex Twin, Broadcast, Battles, LFO, Squarepusher, Gravenhurst and Grizzly Bear – and many, many more (not all of whom fall into the electronica category, of course) – then this 20-years-in-the-business marking collection will have your mouth watering, heart palpitating and eyes filling with tears: of nostalgia, of euphoria, of the hope that music’s future is going to be every bit as dazzling as the talents on display here.

And if this set represents your first dalliance with Warp, well: this writer is incredibly envious of your obvious wealth, and jealous indeed of the thrills you’ll experience during virgin plays of the likes of Luke Vibert, Chris Clark and Autechre.

Beginners are well catered for as it happens, with a selection of tracks chosen by fans of Warp featuring classic cuts Windowlicker, Gantz Graf and Atlas. Label co-founder Steve Beckett complements the devotee-voted collection, his choices collecting together the broken beats of Flying Lotus and the ethereal splendour of Broadcast, and including the great AFX/Squarepusher collaboration, Freeman Hardy & Willis Acid.

Those well-versed in Warp lore, though, will skip immediately to the previously unheard inclusions. Highlights include a deliciously downbeat Seven Forty Seven from Boards of Canada and two dub mixes of tracks from the debut Nightmares on Wax album. Clark’s Rattlesnake is two minutes of glitch bliss that manages to summarise the man’s career to date amazingly effectively, effortless in its elegance but brutal of beat.

A vast array of covers comprises much of this package’s recorded element. Pivot doing Grizzly Bear, Born Ruffians tackling Aphex Twin, Vibert’s interpretation of LFO, Plaid reimagining Plone: loved artists are paid tribute to with respect, but never is originality thrown to the wind.

A 192-page book, The Complete Catalogue, presents every piece of artwork to proudly wear the Warp logo, while set-exclusive CD mix Elemental and double-10” loop collection Infinite round off a perfectly sumptuous celebration of one of the UK’s most important labels. Surely 20 more isn’t asking too much?

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