18 August 2011

Parts in the Post

Intrigued as I was by the concept of an album being released as a T-Shirt and having, as has been proved on far too many occasions to serve as anything other than a cautionary reminder to young children over a summer evening's campfire tale of woe and misfortune, an unfortunately low money-to-sense ratio, and despite actually already possessing the album in question on at least two other formats, Unkie Dave went ahead an ordered the Plaid Rest Proof Clockwork T-Shirt from Bleep last week.

In case you haven't read my previous post (in which case shame on you), original album artist Kid Acne took elements from the album artwork and designed up a new t-shirt. Embedded in the t-shirt collar is a code the can be entered back on Bleep.com to unlock a download of the album in lossless format. Now for some reason I got it in my head that the code was somehow going to be printed on the collar of the shirt, which I thought was a) going to a lot of effort and b) pretty cool because it meant each shirt would be unique. If I had thought about it for longer than 30 seconds (again with the low-money-to-sense thing) I would have realised how unfeasible that would have been, but knowing me I probably would still have ordered the shirt. When it arrived this morning I discovered that the code is simply printed on a tag that is attached to the collar, which isn't as exciting at all, at all.

Still, its a nice shirt and a great album.

Speaking of great Warp albums, apparently Warp had been planning to run a massive sale of their back catalog on Bleep this month, but the riots put that plan literally to the torch. With their entire physical back catalog destroyed save for what remains at Bleep's own warehouse, and in an effort to generate a quick hit of cash to press up new printings of the lost stock (not all of which will be possible as many of the master tapes have gone missing over the last 20 years), Warp have decided to have a huge digital sale on Bleep.

Between now and 30th August Warp's entire back catalog of albums will be on sale in MP3, WAV and FLAC formats on Bleep.com for £4.99/€6.99 each. Double albums are coming in at €9.99 and singles and EPs are also ridiculously low. While I, being the neo-luddite that I am as far as music is concerned, would only buy a digital download if there was no physical alternative available, you may be of a different mind and inclination.

If you are new to the whole Warp thing, might I sugest the following albums (in no particular order) as a great introduction:

Artificial Intelligence - ten track compilation from 1992, the dawn of the classic Warp sound. Autechre, Aphex Twin's first appearance (as The Dice Man), Speedy J, Richie Hawtin (as UP!) and Alex Patterson thrown in for good measure. One of Warp's first full-length releases and the compilation that cemented the label's sound in the minds of the masses. This was intelligent electronic music for listening to, not for dancing.

WAP100 - Twelve track compilation released in 1998 to celebrate Warp's 100th release, great tracks from Squarepusher, AFX, Boards of Canada, Plaid, Autechre, Jimi Tenor, Nightmares on Wax, Broadcast and others - basically a fantastic snapshot of where Warp was at the end of the nineties, for me the classic Warp sound. Also a very reasonable €4.99

Time Tourist - B12's 1996 album. The soundtrack to an imaginary tour of the future (which I suppose was pretty accurate given the fact that fifteen years later I'm still listening to it), or at least an alternative future where Auto-Tune, X-Factor and the Black Eyed Peas never existed. There's more than a passing nod to BBC's Radiophonic Workshop here, and BBC sci-fi shows of the sixties and seventies.

music has the right to children - Boards of Canada's 1998 debut on Warp and a triumph of deeply hypnotic grooves, field recordings and samples, with a rolling, layered construction that would become the trademark BOC sound. Its also worth pointing out that at the moment the CD seems to be only €5.99 on Bleep and the digital-only download is €6.99, and you get a free MP3 of the album instantly when you buy any physical Warp album so, you know, you might as well go old school on this.

Richard D. James Album - Aphex Twin's 1996 album, at the height of his prowess. Glitchy electronica, Cornish acid house, the occasional thumping beats and possibly the most disturbing song ever written about a milkman. Other albums may contain individually more memorable tracks, but as an album few of his releases hold together so well. Again the CD is mysteriously only €5.99.

Incunabula - Autechre's 1993 debut album that literally changed the way I listened to music when I first heard it about five years later. Dark evocative soundscapes, sounds being created in a way that I had never heard before. I actually went out and bought a whole new sound system to listen to this properly (along with Amorphous Androgynous' 1993 debut Tales of Ephidrina). Although later albums progressively veered into music so experimental it was difficult to actually listen to, this was the benchmark by which I judged all further electronica for many a year to come. Amber may be my favourite Autechre album, but if you've never listened to them before you really need to start with Incunabula. Again, for some reason the cd release of this is €5.99, cheaper than the download.

Double Figure - Plaid's 2001 album that remains my favourite. Bouncy, squelchy and, dare I say it, a happy little album with tracks like 'Eyen', 'Squance' and 'Zala' that are impossible not to want to get up and dance to, and feature heavily in any Plaid live set that I've seen. Ironically for such a simple tune I've seen 'Zala' crash two different laptops that the guys have been using at gigs. Plaid are one of my favourite bands, but I think I have been to more disappointing gigs by them than anybody else.

For Beginner Piano - Plone's 1999 debut (and only) album, and possibly the happiest sounding music on this whole list, if not in Warp's entire catalogue. An electronic martini, the sound of a 60's cocktail party at the Mad Hatter's swinging London pad, if you listen very carefully there are even stylophones. Ok, you don't have to listen that carefully, they're all over the place. Just a bouncy happy album, a shame they didn't make any more.

Stay Down - Two Lone Swordsman's 1998 release. Andy Weatherall and Keith Tenniswood put out a string of excellent albums on an annual basis from 1998 to 2001, and as Felix reminded me in a comment on an earlier post Tiny Reminders is a pretty fine album, but for me the stand out Two Lone Swordsman release was Stay Down. If Time Tourist is B12's trip to the future, Stay Down is a voyage to the bottom of the sea. At times dark and claustrophobic, with enough reverb to sound like it was recorded in a tin shack on the bottom of a swimming pool and a squelchy sound that brings to mind the movement of day-glo jellyfish seeking out the exhaust port of a nuclear power plant, this is another classic of late nineties electronica.

Hard Normal Daddy - Squarepusher's second album, released in 1997. Being such a prolific and varied artist, its difficult to pick out a single album as reflective of Tom Jenkinson's overal career, but this is a good place to start. The love of a good bass line permeates all the tracks here, and would later blossom into Jenkinson's solo bass guitar album Solo Electric Bass 1. Simultaneously jazzy and dancey with moments of hectic madness, this is a playful album that doesn't take itself too seriously. As with some of the others on this list, the cd is only €5.99.

So there you have it, ten albums to kick off your journey into classic Warp. I've stayed away from the more recent stuff like Grizzly Bear, Hudson Mowhawk, Bibio, Battles, Africa Hitech and the rest and gone for the classic nineties sound that everything else is built upon, and while I've tried to encourage you all to go down the disposable download route, as luck would have it almost half of the selections are cheaper on CD and come with a free download anyway.

Everything old is new again!




At 5:37 pm, Blogger lusciousblopster said...

you have really captured the essence of what it is like to listen to most of these albums. and given me the names of some i have been listening to for nearly 2 decades but couldn't name at gunpoint. note to self: learn names of musicians and albums i live by. you've made me want to listen to them all again, in a darkened room.

At 1:26 pm, Blogger 2BiT said...

Nice list, no arguments there! Would add:
Aphex Twin - Windowlicker: simulatneously commercial yet experimental, never fails to get a great response.

Chris Clark - Clarence Park : more glitched up beat mangling wizardry but with real emotional power.

LFO - Frequencies : right back to the roots here, the sound of Sheffield bleep house, late nights and ruff beats. We.Are.Back.

Nightmares on Wax - Carboot Soul/Smokers Delight : skunked up n funked up, head trip stuff.

Blech/Blechsdottir : still fresh DJ mix albums, this is how it's done!

Speedy J - G Spot : bracket this one with Incunabula...

Drexcia - The Journey Home : seminal electro classic

Honourable mentions to Black Dog, Red Snapper, Kid Unknown, Anti Pop Consortium, Luke Vibert etc etc etc.

And would add Flying Lotus to your 'new skool' list...


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