Warp, commonly referred to as Warp Records, is an independent British record label, founded in Sheffield in 1989 by record store workers Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell alongside record producer Robert Gordon. It is currently based out of London.
In the 1990s, the label became associated with experimental electronic styles such as intelligent dance music, and served as the home of a variety of acclaimed and influential electronic musicians, including Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and Autechre. Current artists on the label roster include Flying Lotus, Rustie, Oneohtrix Point Never, Danny Brown, Grizzly Bear, Brian Eno, TNGHT, and Kelela.
Warp was founded by Steve Beckett and the late Rob Mitchell, who had both gained experience working at Sheffield's FON record shop, alongside record producer Robert Gordon. The name was chosen because the original name, 'Warped Records', was difficult to distinguish over the telephone.
The first release (WAP1) was by Forgemasters (produced by Robert Gordon), whose 500 copy pressing of "Track with no Name" was financed by an Enterprise Allowance grant and distributed in a borrowed car. It set a trend for the early releases both in terms of sound, and the use of purple sleeves (designed by The Designers Republic). The follow-up was Nightmares on Wax's "Dextrous", which sold around 30,000 copies. This led to greater commercial success; by its fifth release the label had its first Top 20 chart entry with LFO and their eponymous single, "LFO", which sold 130,000 copies and peaked at #12 in the UK Singles Chart in July 1990;:309 by coincidence, that same month another Warp act, Tricky Disco, reached #14 in the UK chart with another eponymous single, "Tricky Disco".:567
Warp's third record, "Testone" (1990) by Sweet Exorcist (Richard H. Kirk and Richard Barratt), defined Sheffield's bleep techno sound, by making playful use of sampled sounds from Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Computer Game" (1978) and the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The first album released was Sweet Exorcist's C.C.E.P. in 1991. In the same year Robert Gordon left Warp acrimoniously.
Warp went on to release a series of singles and albums from 1992 under the Artificial Intelligence heading, a series of experimental electronic music releases by artists such as Aphex Twin (as Diceman and later Polygon Window), Autechre, B12, the Black Dog, Richie Hawtin and Alex Paterson (of The Orb). Initially all the album releases used gatefold sleeves and coloured vinyl, often designed by The Designers Republic or Phil Wolstenholme. A VHS compilation of digitally animated music videos called Motion was released in conjunction with the second Artificial Intelligence compilation, and featured an early work by director David Slade.
In 1996 Warp started the Blech club night in Sheffield, also in London between 1997 and 1999, and released an accompanying compilation CD under the same name. The artwork, created by the Designers Republic, had a distinctive Japanese manga influence. Blech club nights include:
- Blech01 (31 Oct 1997): Seefeel with Boards of Canada
- Blech 02 (28 Nov 1997): Autechre with Cylob
- Blech 03 (30 Jan 1998): Plone
In 1998 Warp signed Boards Of Canada, a duo that would go on to release some of the most highly revered electronic music albums of their time: Music Has the Right to Children (1998), Geogaddi (2002), The Campfire Headphase (2005) and Tomorrow's Harvest (2013).
In 1999, the label released Warp 10: Influences, Classics, Remixes, a compilation spanning six discs, featuring early acid house and techno music that influenced the label and its artists, as well as tracks from Warp's back catalogue, and new remixes of Warp material. The collection celebrated the label's tenth anniversary.
In 2000, the label moved its operations to London along with its physical music and merchandise store Warpmart.
Co-founder Rob Mitchell was diagnosed with cancer in early 2001. He died later that year.
In January 2004, Warp launched an online digital music and entertainment store, Bleep.com, notable for being the first store in the world to completely avoid all digital rights management features in the downloadable tracks, unlike other music stores such as iTunes and Rhapsody. Warpmart has now been absorbed into Bleep.com. Today Bleep sells a carefully curated selection of music from a diverse range of labels. The site has also released its own limited edition LPs The Green Series, and an annual digital release comprising the Top 100 tracks of each year.
2005 saw the release of Warp, the first book in the Labels Unlimited series. Written by Rob Young, the book gave an illustrated history of the label, as well as offering a complete discography. The Warp website said the book was “A very beautiful thing and like our very own This Is Your Life", referring to the This Is Your Life UK TV series.
For the label's 20th anniversary in 2009, several Warp20 concerts took place in Paris, New York City, Sheffield, Tokyo, Berlin and London. Warp also celebrated by releasing the Warp20 box set, composed of six parts:
- Warp20 (1989-2009) The Complete Catalogue: a 192-page book of artwork from every Warp release since the label began.
- Warp20 (Chosen): a double CD album, with ten songs chosen by Warp fans and ten chosen by founder Steve Beckett
- Warp20 (Recreated): a double CD album that included twenty brand new cover versions of Warp songs by Warp artists past and present
- Warp20 (Unheard): a triple 10” vinyl set of unheard tracks from artists such as Boards Of Canada, Autechre and Broadcast.
- Warp20 (Elemental): a CD album featuring an hour-long piece by Osymyso, made from sections, samples and fragments of Warp music from the previous twenty years.
- Warp20 (Infinite): a double 10” vinyl of loops from Warp tracks.
Warp continues to release albums, from artists such as Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus, Mark Pritchard, Bibio, Jamie Lidell, Lonelady, Leila, and Gonjasufi. Recent signings include Brian Eno, Oneohtrix Point Never, Mount Kimbie, Kwes., Darkstar, Death Grips, patten and Jeremiah Jae.
2013 saw the release of Broadcast’s album Berberian Sound Studio, which was the soundtrack to the film of the same name that went on to win British Film Of The Year at the London Critics’ Film Awards, among other accolades. Warp released a split remix 12” for Record Store Day, which was a collaboration between Brian Eno, Nicolas Jaar and Grizzly Bear. In March, Autechre broadcast two 10-hour radio shows to celebrate the release of their 11th album, Exai. Boards of Canada’s fourth studio album Tomorrow’s Harvest charted worldwide, reaching #7 in the UK Albums Chart, and #13 in the US Billboard 200 – vinyl reissues of their albums and EPs followed in October and November. Nightmares On Wax (George Evelyn) released his first album in five years, entitled Feelin’ Good, and followed this with one of his biggest ever international tours, with a live band.
In 2013 Warp also won Independent Label Of The Year at the AIM Awards. In October of that year, to coincide with the Universal Everything & You - Drawing in Motion exhibition running at the National Media Museum's Media Space at Science Museum, London, a 20-minute piece created by Simon Pyke (Freeform), built upon the foundations of the exhibition soundtrack, was released. In December 2013 Warp collaborated with Tate Britain to present a free evening of performance and installations, Warp x Tate, alongside artist Jeremy Deller, inspired by Deller's work 'The History of the World', with contributions from Oneohtrix Point Never, Patten, Darkstar, Hudson Mohawke and Rustie.
2014 marked the 25th anniversary of Warp Records.
Warp has released a number of ground-breaking and original videos that have launched their directors' careers. Much of these videos were compiled for the 2004 WarpVision: The Videos 1989-2004 DVD.
Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker directed some of Warp's earliest videos while at London's Central Saint Martins art school, including LFO's eponymous "LFO" in 1990, Nightmares On Wax's "Aftermath" in 1991, and Aphex Twin's 1993 single "On".
Chris Cunningham is a frequent collaborator with Warp artists. He has directed videos for Aphex Twin's 1997 single "Come to Daddy" and 1999's "Windowlicker", as well as "Come On My Selector" by Squarepusher and "Second Bad Vilbel" by Autechre. "Come To Daddy" was chosen by Pitchfork as the best video of the 1990s, and "Windowlicker" was nominated for Best British Video at the 2000 Brit Awards. Cunningham's short film Rubber Johnny, soundtracked by Aphex Twin, was distributed by Warp Films in 2005.
In 2013, Kahlil Joseph's short film for Flying Lotus' "Until The Quiet Comes" won a Short Film Special Jury Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and Video of the Year at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards. On 12 April, Adam Buxton hosted BUG: Warp Records Special at the BFI Southbank, London, as part of Warp Films' 10th Anniversary.
Artists past and present
- Africa Hitech
- Alexander's Annexe
- Anti-Pop Consortium
- Aphex Twin (and the aliases AFX, GAK, and Polygon Window)
- Babe Rainbow
- Black Dog Productions
- Black Mojo (John Gilpin and Raz Shamshad)
- Boards of Canada
- Born Ruffians
- Brian Eno
- Chok Rock
- Chris Morris
- Circle City
- Clap! Clap!
- Coco, Steel and Lovebomb
- Daniel Rossen
- Danny Brown
- DJ Mink
- DJ Mujava
- Diamond Watch Wrists (Scott Herren and Zach Hill)
- DRC Music
- Duncan Lloyd
- Evian Christ
- F.U.S.E. (Richie Hawtin)
- Flying Lotus
- Future Brown
- Gang Gang Dance
- Grizzly Bear
- Home Video
- Hudson Mohawke
- The Hundred in the Hands
- Jackson and his Computer Band
- Jaco (Solitaire Gee and Hotline – John Gilpin, Raz Shamshad, Tony Powell, Trevor Russell)
- Jake Slazenger
- Jamie Lidell
- Jeremiah Jae
- Jimi Tenor
- Jimmy Edgar
- Joey Beltram
- John Callaghan
- Kenny Larkin
- Lex Loofah (John Gilpin)
- Luke Vibert
- Mark Pritchard / Harmonic 313
- Maxïmo Park
- Mike Ink
- Mira Calix
- Modus Vivendi
- Mount Kimbie
- My Best Fiend
- Nice Nice
- Nightmares on Wax
- Oneohtrix Point Never
- The Other People Place
- Prefuse 73
- PVT / Pivot
- Red Snapper
- Resoraz (Raz Shamshad)
- Rhythm Invention
- Richard Devine
- Richard H. Kirk
- Russell Haswell
- Sabres of Paradise
- Savath and Savalas
- Simon Pyke
- Solitaire Gee (John Gilpin and Raz Shamshad)
- Speedy J
- The Step
- Sweet Exorcist
- Tim Exile
- Tricky Disco
- Tuff Little Unit
- Two Lone Swordsmen
- Tyondai Braxton
- Vincent Gallo
- Wild Planet
Warp subsidiaries and partnerships
Warp launched a film company, Warp Films (which also shares staff with Warp X) and digital download store Bleep in 2004. Bleep carries music from a number of smaller labels as well as Warp. In 2009, Warpmart was incorporated into Bleep, which now sells downloads, physical releases and merchandise from hundreds of record labels. Bleep operates also a record imprint of Warp.
Artificial Intelligence Series
- Artificial Intelligence (WARP 6, 1992)
- Polygon Window - Surfing On Sine Waves (WARP 7, 1992)
- Black Dog Productions - Bytes (WARP 8, 1993)
- B12 - Electro-Soma (WARP 9, 1993)
- FUSE - Dimension Intrusion (WARP 12, 1993)
- Speedy J - Ginger (WARP 14, 1993)
- Autechre - Incunabula (WARP 17, 1993)
- Artificial Intelligence II (WARP 23, 1994)
- Pioneers of the Hypnotic Groove
- Evolution of the Groove
- Tequila Slammers and the Jump Jump Groove Generation
- The Theory of Evolution
- Blech II: Blechsdottir
- Warp 10+1 Influences
- Warp 10+2 Classics
- Warp 10+3 Remixes
- Warp: Routine
- Morvern Callar - Official Soundtrack
- We Are Reasonable People
- WarpVision: The Videos 1989-2004 DVD
- Warp Records Sampler 2008
- Warp20 (Recreated)
- Warp20 (Chosen)
- Warp20 (Unheard)