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.

Warp Records

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.


Battled40 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  £18
Latest  2016 WARP LP 156R  £20


Louden Up Now

39 !!!
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  £12
Latest  Out Of Press


Lukevibert38 Luke Vibert
YosepH (2003)

The acid king has been known by many names, but this is one particular album to pay attention to from Vibert’s considerable catalogue. YosepH isn’t IDM or anything groundbreaking, just great beats and samples put to good use.

Rarest  2003 WARP LP 112  £25
Latest  Out Of Press


Point Never37 Oneohtrix Point Never
Garden of Delete (2015)

Oneohtrix Point Never’s second album for Warp is an echo chamber, updating the plunderphonics of Art Of Noise with an icy, formless ambience as barely-there voices flit in and out of channels, making some of Warp’s most challenging music in years.

Rarest  2015 WARP LP 266  £32  (limited pressing)
Latest  2015 Warp  £15


Kelela36 Kelela
Take Me Apart (2017)

The most recent release on our list, Take Me Apart may lack the shock of the new from Kelela’s previous mixtapes and EPs, but is still a must hear of the changing face of contemporary RnB.

Rarest  2017 WARP LP 287X  £29 (numbered)
Latest  2017 Warp £14


Hudson Mohawke
35 Hudson Mohawke

Butter (2009)

Colourful, brash and Day-Glo bright, Hudson Mohawke’s sparkling debut is one of the most fun records from Warp this century. Its urban swagger echoes Prefuse 73 in mood, and the high-pitched samples anticipate the revolutionary sounds of Glaswegian labelmate Rustie.

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Rarest  2009 WARP LP 188  £16


BiBio34 Bibio
Ambivalence Avenue (2009)

On his Warp debut, English artist Stephen Wilkinson prefigured the neo-psych of Tame Impala and Neon Indian’s current electro-stomps. His acoustic, noisy moments also out-Beck whatever Beck was putting out during the same period.

Rarest 2009 WARP LP 177  £30
Latest  2015 Warp £17


Syro

33 Aphex Twin
Syro (2014)

After years in the relative wilderness, Richard D. James made a triumphant return with his sixth studio album to date. It’s miles better than his fifth one, Drukqs, and far more essential than the deluge of singles, EPs and miscellanea that followed in its wake. The boxed 3LP special ‘ballot’ edition of 200 copies will set you back a pretty penny.

Rarest  2014 WARP LP 247X  £445


Vincent Gallo32 Vincent Gallo
When (2001)

Surprisingly, one of the rarest Warp releases out there isn’t an obscure rave white label or Autechre curio, but a lo-fi collection of noodly songs and instrumentals by an all but forgotten Hollywood oddball. Its outrageous worth far outweighs its merit, but there’s some nice work when Gallo keeps it plaintive, raw and acoustic.

Rarest  2001 WAP LP 87  £112
Latest  Out Of Press


Squarepusher

31 Squarepusher
Numbers Lucent (2009)

It’s Squarepusher’s singles which have excited more than most of his albums this century, and this companion EP to the Just A Souvenir LP is a much more thrilling listen. Garage, jungle and rave lovers will be satisfied as Tom Jenkinson has the most fun he’s had in years.

Rarest  2009 WAP258 £8
Latest  Out Of Press


Various Artists30 Various
Warp20 (1989–2009) (2009)

Warp is turning 30, but it’ll be hard to top this lavish 5LP/5CD boxset compilation made in honour of its 20th anniversary. The well-known and obscure are all here on wax, including Boards Of Canada rarities and influential Aphex Twin singles such as On, making this the best starting point for any Warp newbie.

Rarest  2009 WARP20º  £89
Latest  Out Of Press


Drexciya

29 Drexciya
The Journey Home (1995)

One of the many 12″s that made duo Drexciya’s name on both sides of the Atlantic, from an influential series of aquatic-themed releases that are far from watery in style. Hard, fast and dirty dance music, in that early Warp vein.

Rarest  1995 WAP 57 £22
Latest  Out Of Press


Come to Daddy28 Aphex Twin
Come To Daddy (1997)

B-sides such as Flim and IZ-US make this an essential Aphex release, and the remixes are grand too, but irritatingly all these extras were compiled for CD but not mass vinyl editions. To truly appreciate the Come To Daddy EP on wax, you’ll need to shell out for the rarest edition below, otherwise there’s no point.

Rarest  1997 WAP94P  £89 (promo with alternate sleeve)
Latest  2012 Warp  £8 (buyer beware!)


Media

27 The Other People Place
Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (2001)

A record that first went unnoticed but is now heralded a lost classic, this was an alias for one of the influential Drexciya’s final projects. Lifestyles… remains their slinkiest, subtlest electro work, with a prescient preoccupation of our relationship with technology.

Rarest  2001 WARP LP 90  £48
Latest  2017 Warp  £20


Flying Lotus26 Flying Lotus
Until the Quiet Comes (2012)

After Prefuse 73 revolutionised hip hop production in the 2000s, it was time for Flying Lotus to usher in the next stage with his magical psych beats. Alongside Erykah Badu, two Radiohead stars guest on this musical journey into dreamscapes, making Lotus’ fourth and best LP to date.

Rarest  2012 WARP LP 230X  £18
Latest  Out Of Press


Gonjasufi

25 Gonjasufi ‎
A Sufi and a Killer (2010)

A fascinating, blearier left-turn from Warp songwriters such as Gravenhurst by way of Flying Lotus. The latter actually lends his psyched-out, global-tinged production here, as Gonjasufi’s world weary voice brings you back down to scorched earth.

Rarest  2010 WARP LP 172  £20
Latest  2016 Warp £18


The Black Dog24 The Black Dog
Spanners (1995)

This was the act’s last album as a trio, with two of its members going on to form Plaid. It’s highly recommended for fans of the latter, and anyone interested in dance music that blurs the lines between techno and IDM.

Rarest  1995 PUP LP1 £36
Latest  Out Of Press


B12

23 B12
Time Tourist (1996)

One of electronica’s rare concept albums; you’ll only guess that from The Designers Republic’s inventive artwork, though, positing the album as an educational computer game from the future; but really this is a great and at times beautiful dance record with singular vision.

Rarest  1996 WARP LP 37 £68
Latest  2018 Warp £19


Jamie Lidell22 Jamie Lidell
Jamie Lidell (2013)

It’s odd for Jamie’s fifth album to be self-titled, and also a really humdrum choice of name for what’s a rocking party record. ‘A Purple One’ would be a better title, as this is the last great Prince album to be made before the legend and Lidell’s  idol’s death. It’s an underrated treat.

Latest  2013 WARP LP 232 £15


Danny Brown

21 Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition (2016)

Warp introduced rap into its DNA as far back as the early 2000s, but it’s only struck gold in recent years with Danny Brown’s official fourth LP. A critically adored release, the Detroit rapper updates the Antipop Consortium template with a mix of millennial anxiety and the hyper-fun awareness of Outkast.

Rarest 2016 WARP LP 276X £40 (numbered)
Latest  2016 Warp £14


Nightmares on Wax20 Nightmares On Wax
A Word of Science (1991)

Recorded when Nightmares were still a duo, it can be easy to forget their debut prefigured both trip hop and the soul-sourced sample style of DJ Shadow, and to this day it still buzzes with energy and ideas.

Rarest  1991 WARP LP4  £22
Latest  2014 Warp  £20


Broadcast

19 Broadcast
Tender Buttons (2005)

You can find all of Broadcast’s albums on Warp, and this one is considered by many to be their master work, merging the austere, unplaceable side of the 60s with the kind of noise pop Warp bypassed in the early 90s.

Rarest  2005 WARP LP 136 £60
Latest  2015 WARP LP 136R £15

 


18 DRC MusicKinsha One Two
Kinshasa One Two (2011)

Damon Albarn with an all-star cast including Dan The Automator and Remi Kabaka Jr? Yes, but this isn’t Gorillaz – imagine something much better. Featuring Actress, Totally Extinct Dinosaurs and more with a host of contemporary Congolese musicians, DRC Music produce one slick dance-trip that’s the best album the cartoon supergroup never made.

Rarest  2011 WARPLP221  £18
Latest  Out Of Press


17 Kenny Larkin
Azimuth (1994)

Although Warp started off putting out techno singles, Kenny Larkin was one of the few American artists from the scene to have released a proper album on the label. His debut, therefore, is Detroit techno straight from the source, and a milestone of the genre.

Rarest  1994 WARP LP 20LTD £33
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Richard H Kirk16 Richard H. Kirk
Virtual State (1994)

The Cabaret Voltaire member moved from industrial to dance with seemingly relative ease during the 1990s, and Kirk’s first album for Warp shows his confidence in making blissed-out techno for the post-rave generation, infused effortlessly with world sounds.

Rarest  1994 WARP LP 19 £40
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Squarepusher

15 Squarepusher
Hard Normal Daddy (1997)

Squarepusher’s first album for Warp remains his best from the 90s, perfecting his drill & bass from earlier releases for Rephlex by adding a deft touch of jazz. Johnny Clayton’s 8-bit artwork is also a treat, the same designer who first established Aphex Twin’s ‘grinning face’ sleeve designs.

Rarest  1997 WARP50LP £32
Latest  Out Of Press


Plaid14 Plaid
Not For Threes (1997)

An album probably known best today for featuring Björk, but this sophomore release from Plaid was unique in applying female vocals to IDM. Also unique is the style of electronica here, uncategorisable with its playfulness and aquatic quality, like traipsing through jungle swamps on a cute alien world.

Rarest  1997 WARP LP 54 £26
Latest  Out Of Press


Grizzly Bear Yellow House

13 Grizzly Bear
Yellow House (2006)

This is the Grizzly Bear album featuring one of their best songs, Knife, but there’s a whole load of great songcraft to be unearthed on here, and a beautifully composed atmosphere like one of daybreak over a mountain range.

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Rarest  2006 WARP LP 147X  £30
Latest  2012 Warp £15


Aphex Twins12 Aphex Twin
Richard D. James Album (1996)

The electronic genius’ most accessible album is fittingly very accessible on vinyl. It’s worth grabbing for beauties such as Fingerbib, Goon Gumpas and Girl/Boy Song, songs which will give you a different sort of smile to the wicked one on the cover.

Rarest 1996 WARP LP 43  £21
Latest  2012 Warp  £14

 


Squarepusher

11 Squarepusher
Do You Know Squarepusher? (2001)

Do you know who invented grime and dubstep? It was Squarepusher, believe it or not, on this rap/garage hybrid sent from the future. It’s best to avoid the album of the same name and just stick with this one-sided single for your collection.

Rarest  2001 WAP 155 £3
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Autechre Autechre10 Autechre
Autechre/Untitled (1998)

Commonly referred to as LP5, Autechre’s anonymous fifth record is a bridge between the melodies and lurching glitch beats of previous albums and the duo’s more percussive 21st century work, and perhaps the most accessible of their many LPs.

Rarest 1998 warp lp 66 £47
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Prefuse

9 Prefuse 73
Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives (2001)

Scott Herren picked up where The Avalanches left off in 2000, speeding up their style with a glitchy rap spin. Call it blip hop, call it 21st century screw, either way it influenced everyone from Erlend Øye to post-rockers Hood, and even The Avalanches’ eventual rap-fueled return.

Rarest  2001 WARP LP 83 £22
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Maximo Park8 MaxÏmo Park
Apply Some Pressure (2005)

This ubiquitous 2000s indie hit was the second single taken from the Newcastle band’s debut album, A Certan Trigger. The Mercury Prize nominated album shifted over 300,000 copies and was at the vanguard of the New Wave revival that never was.

Rarest  2005  7WAP 185  £16 (white label)
Latest  Out Of Press

 

 


Gang Gang

7 Gang Gang Dance
Saint Dymphna (2008)

The US act’s global kaleidoscope of an album highlighted UK grime years before it became a PR dream, at a time when NME was obsessed with very Western (and very male) indie. It rang with defiant, singular female cries long before Grimes made her debut and it brought the art back to rock, the electronic yin to Animal Collective’s freak-folk yang. A fourth-world classic.

Rarest  2008 WARP LP 171 £11
Latest Out Of Press


squarepusher go plastic

6 Squarepusher
Go Plastic (2001)

Featuring the pervy mock garage of My Red Hot Car, ‘Pusher’s last great album is one madcap, cheeky little ride that’ll push listeners to the limit in a thrilling showcase of Mr. Jenkinson on his journey to full digital.

Rarest  2001 WARP LP 85 £28 (2LP)
Latest  Out Of Press

 


Rustie Glass Swords

5 Rustie
Glass Swords (2011)

Glass Swords’ hyperactive influence can be heard through infamous UK label PC Music, the acclaimed albums of newbies like Sophie, Kero Kero Bonito and Iglooghost, even on TV commercials. Falling somewhere between sci-fi computer games and instrumental J-pop, Rustie’s warped yet jubilant synths have taken over the landscape in rapid time.

Rarest  2011 WARP LP 217 £25 (limited)
Latest Out Of Press

 


LFO4 LFO
Frequencies (1991)

The acid masterpiece that cemented Warp’s reputation as leaders of UK dance, and the label’s first classic album. True bleepy goodness that brought Kraftwerk to the indoor rave, and which won’t cost you a set of limbs to own a first edition.

Rarest 1991 WARP LP3 £33 (white label)
Latest  2011 Warp £40

 

 


aphex twin ambient

 3 Aphex Twin
Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1994)

The one Aphex album you’ll need with the word ‘ambient’ in its title. Buyer beware, though, if you’re wanting to appreciate the entire sonic lunar landscape as Aphex intended, only the LP version from Warp features all 25 of the untitled haunting beauties made for the release; CD versions skip a few tracks, and so does the most recent reissue from US label 1972.

Rarest  1994 WARP LP21 LTD £106 (numbered with coloured labels)


Boards of Canada2 Boards of Canada
Music Has the Right to Children (1998)

The hauntological sounds of this LP echo today in the beats of Four Tet, Caribou and more, along with current multimedia movements such as vaporwave and creepypasta. It’s even there in the nebulous nostalgia of films such as Berberian Sound Studio and TV comedy on the Adult Swim/Look Around You spectrum. No wonder the album feels as if it was made yesterday.

Rarest 1998 WARP LP 55 £65 (2LP)
Latest  2013 Warp £20

 


aphex twin windowlicker

1 Aphex Twin
Windowlicker (1999)

Admittedly, this single-only release is let down by lacking B-sides. Still, how could they ever hold a candle to the A-side, one of the greatest, most singular IDM tracks ever made? A sensual farce of French house, Windowlicker still titillates and disturbs to this day, and nothing else by Aphex, or any artist for that matter, is quite like it.

Rarest 1999 WAP 105P  £37 (promo with alternate sleeve)
Latest  2016 Warp £10

 


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Giacomo Lee

 

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