Thankfully for us landlubbers on this side of the Atlantic, Matador Records (who fittingly also celebrates their 10th anniversary this year) and Warp have teamed up again to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of their record company. Not to go lightly, Warp is releasing not one, not two, but three 2CD sets of music for the big shibang, this being the second of the bunch. Unless you're a serious record hound who's shelled out some cash or had the advantage of being old enough to listen to Warp records (and their crazy purple sleeves) since the beginning, these tracks had previously been kind of a pain in the arse just to come across. Like true sports, they've collected 18 of the earliest label singles and stuck them onto two discs for anyone who feels like instantly becoming a "Warp-spotter."
Really, it's almost strange listening to the first 18 tracks when lining them up beside the current roster of hardcore electronic noodlers that the roster is known for. The other really strange thing is that even if you're one of the people who thinks that they haven't heard any of the old releases, chances are that you have. The sub-title of the disc isn't "classics" for nothing.
The disc starts out with the very first release off the Warp label, "The Track With No Name" by Forgemasters. It starts out with some nice synthy chorus before dropping into an electro funk kick-drummed track that just oozes the early sounds of Detroit. Following close behind is "Dextrous" by Nightmares On Wax (who released their album Carboot Soul just this year, making them the longest-running artists on the label), shining their talents in a completely different light than their now spliffed-out mantras.
"Everything's ready here on the dark side of the moon...play the five tones." Sweet Exorcist are next with their minimal, bleeping track "Testone" that got so much playtime that even a Midwestern American kid like me heard that simple little song structure and had to repeat it on the closest musical instrument. Sure, it was a track that made people think that electronic music was simplistic, but there was a lot more going on than they cared to listen for. Cutting up things on track number 4 is DJ Mink with the now heavily-sampled "Hey Hey! Can U Relate?" It's a hip-hop funk electro track that physically forces you to move your booty.
LFO takes the next three tracks with their shimmering, speak n' spell namedropping self-titled track, as well as the synth-washed "track 4" and "Probe." At the time, the group provided the largest selling album for the label (at 120,000 copies, which is quite huge) and put their initials on the lips of even people who hadn't been directly into the scene before. The first disc closes out with another Nightmares On Wax track ("Aftermath" (LFO mix)) and Sweet Exorcist's "Testfour" (which is basically just a darker mix of the aforementioned track "Testone").
The second disc starts out in more familiar territory, dropping huge beats on both "I'm For Real" and "Aftermath" by Nightmares On Wax. Like a game of Pong gone haywire, Tricky Disco's self-titled track not only adds a few more blips and bleeps to the mix, but a tongue firmly planted in cheek as well. A damn catchy little track in any decade. After "Yeah You" by The Step, Sweet Exorcist trades in their tones for a more Detroit sound on "Clonk (Freebass)" and provides a little bit of minimal dancefloor fuel. Tuff Little Unit follows things up with the bass and bleep sound of "Join The Future." Starting out with vocals, it sounds like it could be a more poppy offering, but soon drops off into a full-fledged electronic number.
Just in case you hadn't heard enough by them, Nightmares On Wax makes their final contribution to the disc with the heavily-layered "A Case Of Funk." Starting out with a chorus of pitch-bending divas, it keeps on adding upon itself (including at least two distinct beat tracks) until it's a thumping collage of red level pounding junk beats. It drops off a couple times, but loads up again after each intermission until it wears you down. Coco Steel And Lovebombs "Feel It" moves along with what sounds like a live bass before adding a couple more blips and bloops and orchestra hits. Things close out with the super-minimal dancefloor-pounding "Loop" by LFO Versus F.U.S.E. The epic track progresses through several different parts, but always goes back to the thump.
Overall, I'm not sure what else I can say about these tracks that hasn't already been written or said elsewhere. While a lot of the tracks may sound cheesy on the first listen, they're really part of that foundation of electronic music today. I kind of wish that a couple more tracks would have been included (and perhaps only one mix of each track featured), but that's a small complaint. Granted, the Warp label has changed drastically in sound since then, but it's a testament to the music itself that it's been able to thrive, and the anniversary marks Warp as one of the older electronic music-based labels in the world. If you haven't heard these tracks, listen to them and hear the roots. Also check out the coinciding releases, Warp 10+1 Influences and Warp 10+3 Remixes.