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Warp Records

As the influential label turns 30 this year, Giacomo Lee looks back on the legendary Warp catalogue to discover it goes far beyond bleeps and brain-melting beats

The history of Warp Records can be summed up by a tale of two record shops. One a Sheffield enterprise from the late 1980s, the other a pop-up opened towards the end of last year in London.

The former was known as FON Records, the Steel City’s number one destination for all things indie and industrial. Run by Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell, the shop was revamped as the pair soon realised a new form of dance music was forming on their doorstep. Originally to be renamed as Warped Records, it ended up being called what everyone was mishearing it as down the phone when speaking with the pair, Warp.

The shop soon became the outpost of Sheffield’s ‘bleep’ scene as rave and techno took over the country, leading to the label’s birthplace in 1989 as Steve and Rob began to put out the tracks being given to them by friends and customers.

BLEEP TO BLEEP

Three decades later, and the Bleep pop-up store appeared in London, the first physical manifestation of Warp’s massive online store of the same name.

In that time, Warp progressed from being the ‘bleep’ label to the IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) label. Without its influence, it’s unlikely the genre and various ‘brain dance’ superstars such as Boards Of Canada and Richard D. James would have ever found recognition. You certainly wouldn’t see scores of punters waiting outside the Bleep store in the cold, desperate to get their hands on limited edition Aphex Twin brollies and teddies to take home.

The label has stuck doggedly to vinyl over the years, although fascinating curios such as Chris Morris’ Blue Jam remain CD-only. Collecting the early ‘bleep’ releases isn’t too difficult, surprisingly, but some of the IDM blockbusters can be hard to find cheaply on vinyl; it’s a shame as these are among the best of Warp’s back catalogue.

This round-up takes from all eras of the label, and is ranked by merit. The ‘rarest’ editions are priced in terms of first presses and white labels, or limited and numbered initial runs. We’ve also put in a few handy warnings to let you know if certain editions have a warped (ahem) tracklisting that might deprive you of some must-hear tracks.

BATTLES

MIRRORED (2007)

It’s a real shame the departure of Battles vocalist Tyondai Braxton soon after its release has diluted the reputation of this math-rock thriller, as Mirrored is one of those progressive milestones from the latter half of the 2000s that prove Warp’s ‘guitar phase’ of that decade went well beyond indie rock.

£ Rarest 2007 WARP LP 156 £18Latest 2016 WARP LP 156R £20

LOUDEN UP NOW (2004)

Chk chk chk, as they’re phonetically known, blew a lot of heads with their epic dance-funk freakouts, and made the acts on label DFA look positively tame in comparison. After this release, all sorts of bands appeared with typographically quirky names, for better or for worse. Warp had broken new ground once again.

£ Rarest 2004 WARP LP 121 £12Latest Out Of Press

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