Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Ben Lovett: Grooveyard - EDM, House n' Dance Column

Ben Lovett: Grooveyard EDM, House n' Dance column
Ben Lovett: Grooveyard EDM, House n' Dance column Warp Records 25th Anniversary The Warehouse Project It's 10 and out for The Garden Festival Cocoon Compilation N: Various (Cocoon) Deep Love 10: Various (Dirt Crew Recordings) De Lata ft. Sacha Gabriel: The Shore - Toni Economides & Carl Smith Remix (Papa) Filsonik: Dogfish Chaim: Underwater EP

“It’s at Warp I cut my teeth as a ‘proper’ DJ and enjoyed my first forays into the studio. I owe it everything!” veteran DJ-producer Chris Duckenfield told me a few months ago. “They’re still easily one of the most interesting indie labels on the planet. Flying Lotus, Grizzly Bear, Battles – it’s the same spirit of championing mavericks they’ve always had.”


And now, look, the label is an impressive 25 years’ old, its electric pioneer spirit having driven it firmly into the electronic music history books, as well as on to some pretty cool anniversary celebrations next month. This September, Warp will journey to Krakow, Poland where it plans to fully commemorate its journey so far by aligning with renowned avant-garde collective Sacrum Profanum. The collective’s annual, eponymous festival will see Warp stalwart Squarepusher presenting a new live show alongside renowned European chamber ensemble Sinfonietta Cracovia, and the London Sinfonietta performing their acclaimed interpretations of Warp artists Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin, hugely influential US composer Steve Reich and others (‘Warp Works and 20th Century Masters’).

Thrillingly, Warp will also use its Polish adventure to throw a totally unique, future-facing party focused on what the next 25 years may hold for the label. Both Battles and Autechre will introduce new material at their first live shows in nearly three years (and only live shows of 2014) and LFO will drop a rare as hens’ teeth AV set. Elsewhere, Hudson Mohawke, Rustie, Darkstar and Patten all play, demonstrating iconoclastic verve via everything from abyssal bass warbles and twisted beat-scapes to nu-psychedelic meander and cacophonic warehouse careens. The future looks as sparky as ever.

“Why are we still here after 25 years?” Leah Ellis, Warp’s Head of UK PR ponders. “We care about our artists and take their lead on their creativity. We encourage them to come up with their own ideas. Another aspect is the music…it is quality not quantity.”

The label was founded in the back room of a Sheffield record shop [FON] by local underground stalwarts Steve Beckett, Rob Mitchell (who sadly died from cancer in 2001) and Robert Gordon. It was the latter who, alongside fellow Sheffield mainstays Winston Hazel and Sean Maher (under alias The Forgemasters), provided Warp’s bleep-y hardcore techno debut Track With No Name in 1989.

The track was funded by a government Enterprise Allowance Grant and circulated via borrowed car. “At the time we didn’t think we were setting up a label necessarily” Beckett mentioned in an interview in 2012. “It was more about, ‘Let’s do this 12-inch and see if it can have an effect’, like we were seeing in guys likes 808 State and Unique 3. It was all orientated to the dance floor rather than the label side of things.”

Warp’s founders found other creative ways to fund their expansion, selling tickets for gigs at Sheffield University to generate cash-flow. FON was eventually refit as a new record store, also called Warp. The new wave Detroit and Chicago dance records it imported - mechanised beats from imprints Trax, Underground Resistance and Transmat – would, in turn, influence Warp Records’ next releases; punchy outings for Tricky Disco, LFO and Sweet Exorcist.

Warp exploded. John Peel called up to offer his support, and successful club label Rhythm King, with pedigree for moulding raw dance cuts into sleek, commercial bullets requested a partnership. “We thought we’d done the deal of the century” Beckett commented. “We signed away everything for £10,000 and just walked out of Rhythm King going ‘Yes, we’ve done it’.”

Warp’s deal with Rhythm King off-shoot Outer Rhythm soon hit trouble. LFO and Tricky Disco soared in the national charts but all unit sales were heading to Rhythm King. “You’re…not realising that after a while you’re selling 100,000 records and you’re not seeing a penny and going, ‘Hold on…my God, what have we done?’” Beckett reflected. Meanwhile, Gordon had left the Warp family on bad terms.

Beckett and Mitchell turned to Mute Records’ Daniel Miller – who had separate ties to Rhythm King – to help them escape their contractual hell. Once again holding the reins, they committed themselves to remaining independent. Part of this came through establishing a programme of long-term artist development. In 1991, Waro released the first album by a British techno act, LFO’s Frequencies, and thereafter continued to build a diverse but loyal family. “It [Frequencies] pulled us out of the trough, where we were just completely skint with no royalties” Beckett reflected. “It was the point where we turned ourselves into a record label. We really started clocking that was the way to have a bit of longevity and build artists.”

The label moved to London in 2000 but its remit has remained the same. A bold, challenging and ultimately rewarding catalogue of electronic work from maverick talents like Aphex Twin, Darkstar, Squarepusher, Hudson Mohawke, Nightmares On Wax and Boards of Canada is at the heart of Warp’s being. The label’s most recent output has only enlivened that game-changing spirit further – the releases of Oneohtrix Point Never, an electronic experimentalist based in the world of contemporary art, and London singer-songwriter Kwes, fearlessly mixing electronica, hip-hop and indie, say it all. Warp’s handle on its future is remarkable. Hype continues to circulate its operation but any pressure to deliver on rampant audience expectation is batted calmly away in the pursuit of new surprises for its people. Warp’s journey is some achievement considering the de rigeur destabilising vagaries of the dance music industry.

“I think advancements in technology have helped us and the artists to explore more creative techniques” claims Ellis. Warp, however, has always pushed beyond identifiable boundaries. Those early, zippy Phil Wolstenholme-designed vinyl sleeves have led on to a variety of smart projects exploring the ties between music, film and art. The output of Oneohtrix Point Never is an obvious example, as well as Warp Films (launched in 2004; and with award-winning motion picture credits including the bespoke Arctic Monkeys-soundtracked Submarine) and recent art-sound collaboration with London’s Science Museum, Tate Britain and the British Film Institute.

Warp’s legacy in terms of music videos is also sizeable - memorable commissions for Aphex Twin (1997’s Come To Daddy, 1999’s Windowlicker) and Flying Lotus (2012’s Until The Quiet Comes) boosting the careers of directors Chris Cunningham (who subsequently worked with Madonna) and Kahlil Joseph (an eventual Sundance Film Festival winner). Expression is anything and everything.

It follows that the label’s individual personality is as resolutely important as ever, as Ellis testifies: “Our personality? It is all about creativity, once again. Because we are a small label in terms of workforce we get to work really closely with artists and fans.” Warp, then, is still brimming with the chaotic, sparkling genius that has shaped it for the past 25 years.

Institutional Sheffield DJ-producer Richard ‘Parrot’ Barratt, who ran iconic local night Jive Turkey with Winston Hazel during the late Eighties, reckons that Warp’s founders were always going to succeed. “Rob and Steve were bandy sorts before starting the shop and label” he reminisces. “I think that background gave them a good insight into the minds of the new audience that sprang up for electronic music in the late Eighties. Rob and Steve understood that there was an appetite that, although stimulated by dance music, went beyond dancing. A whole new market appeared; people were turned onto electronics via house and ready to try new forms. Rob and Steve got that in a way that they may not have done had they been strict dance floor enthusiasts or soul heads.”

For more details on Warp’s 25th anniversary plans, head to


Manchester’s annual extravaganza The Warehouse Project is, of course, returning to Store Street air raid shelter beneath Piccadilly Station, where it was based 2007-2011 before moving to Trafford’s Victoria Warehouse.

Organisers announced a while back that this year’s celebration, September 27 to December 19, would operate as just a handful of events what with big plans in place for the Project’s 10th anniversary in 2015. However, a look at this autumn’s line-up suggests there is plenty to keep die-hard revellers entertained.

Highlights most definitely include the Project’s opening Welcome To The Warehouse party withSeth Troxler, Carl Craig, Tale Of Us and Jackmaster. Elsewhere, Jamie Jones hosts Paradise on October 24, Four Tet and Caribou co-curate on October 31 (their special Hallowe’en line-up featuring Floating Points and grime-ster Terror Danjah), James Blake, Dan Foat and Airhead perform as 1-800 Dinosaur November 8, US house grandee Curtis Jones faces off aliases Green Velvet and Cajmere November 15, The Chemical Brothers join Andrew Weatherall, Breach and Bicep on December 5 and Dixon, Ame and Henrik Schwarz play an Innervisions showcase December 13. Fatboy Slim rounds off proceedings December 19. Full line-up and ticket details at


Croatia’s founding festival, The Garden Festival, will also turn 10 next year but, alas, 2015 will be its last ever showing. The intimate gathering, at The Garden Tisno on the Adriatic coastline, has largely catalysed today’s thriving Croatian club scene. Last year’s gathering, the usual mix of zesty boat parties, beach boogies and club events, featured house and disco royalty including Wolf And Lamb, Soul Clap, Francois K, Craig Richards, Greg Wilson and Prosumer. Next year’s final blowout will run July 1-8, 2015 – check – ‘early bird’ tickets are already available!



Chaim – Underwater EP (Ger Visionquest)

Near spiritual two-tracker from reflective Israeli Chaim Avital who has built significant underground momentum from his deep, explorative tech-house sound. The titular opener ripples purposefully into being, gradual, carefully considered waves of electronic sound stacking upon one another to form a powerful, subterranean, irresistibly atmospheric 4-4 groove. Flipside offering Remember When reveals tougher, tribal edges, intense pulses of synthesiser anchored satisfyingly by robust beats, airy keys and other random FX accoutrements. Similarly out of this world.

Filsonik – Dogfish (UK Hot Creations)

The New York house veteran – mentored early in his career by childhood neighbours Mateo & Matos, and Club Shelter’s Timmy Regisford - makes his debut on Jamie Jones’ ubiquitous imprint with a swinging house groove filled to the brim with chunky 4-4 drums and kick-ass bass. The subtle blend of additional rhythmic elements and vocal snippets later on only adds to Dogfish’s hypnotic potency. Jones’ remix juggles the original’s core elements but sticks closely to its win-win formula. Relentlessly brilliant.

De Lata feat. Sacha Gabriel – The Shore (Toni Economides & Carl Smith Remix) – (UK Papa)

Nimble Afro-Brazilian duo Chris Franck and Patrick Forge have picked up pace again in recent years after a long sabbatical across much of the Noughties. The Shore was released last October to favourable reviews, its mellow Latin-folk shimmer heightened by the wispy delivery of Canadian singer-songwriter Sacha Gabriel. Now here comes an excellent deep house remix by pedigree studio engineer Toni Economides and master percussionist-producer Carl Smith – Gabriel’s transcendent tones allowed to roam over organic, rolling drums, deep key hooks, spirals of cosmic synth, and further flashes of percussion. The end result is totally epic.


Various Artists – Deep Love 10 (Ger Dirt Crew Recordings)

German duo Dirt Crew – Break 3000 and James Flavour – marks the 10th anniversary of its eponymous label with this confidently selected compilation; an album choosing to look forwards rather than back over the story so far (as great as that is). Synonymous with innovation, predominantly within the fields of house and techno, it is fitting that Dirt Crew loads Deep Love 10 with new artists. Label vanguards Tigerskin and Yosa are present, the former’s stabby, expectedly rawhide Ad Lib Robot and latter’s chop-vocal, disco-flecked Love Me offering rousing treats at either end of the record. But the momentum, thrillingly so, is with the wide-ranging newbies. Chicago enigma Edit Murphy provides opening highlight You Got The Look, with its smooth disco-house lilt, whilst Berlin-based Timothy Blake dishes an urgent, wonderfully funky update on the classic synth Italo-disco sound for The Town Is Quiet. Elsewhere, Matt Masters cuts skilfully between techno and electro whilst looping 6 & 3 Toos, St Petersburg’s Ponty Mython carves angular euphoria (with more than a nod to vintage late Eighties rave) for Movin’ On, and Manchester-based Hidden Spheres jam out downtempo jazz ‘n’ breaks beauty Baby’s Smiles. The latter returns at the close (of the digital edition) for Wind & Rain, a breezy, piano-lined slice of jazz-house gorgeousness further reminding of this compilation’s invigorating, future-facing diversity and, considering that, surprisingly well preserved soulfulness. If Deep Love 10 is an updated statement of Dirt Crew’s intent, then its future is looking very bright indeed. Magical.

Various Artists – Cocoon Compilation N (Ger Cocoon)

Sven Vath’s Cocoon stable presents the latest instalment of its alphabetic techno mix series and, as ever, the quality is rock solid. There is requisite drive here but not at the cost of control and style. Konstantin Sibold’s opener with Leif Muller, Kolibri, combines mellow and melody in perfect harmony, whilst Julian Perez’ dub by techno descent Over The Rain conjures rich atmosphere. The smart arpeggiated kick of Aril Brikha & Vince Watson’s VA2 ups the tempo, followed by darker delights from the likes of Cavaan (percussive monster Wildness) and Sam Pafanini (the Drumcode regular offering meaty techno workout Labryinth). The album’s two closing cuts from Ripperton (Wet Dreams) and Ricardo Tobar (Gambetta) ably splice the sensibilities of melodic house and hammerhead techno, once again summarising N’s appealing zig-zag between hard and soul.

Till next time.

Ben Lovett
(Still working the late shift!!!)

Please feel free to contact me with any EDM / House n' Dance news that you feel would benefit others Thank you.


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