Warp (record label)

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Warp (record label)
Warp Records 2015.jpg
Founded 1989
Founder Steve Beckett, Rob Mitchell, Robert Gordon
Genre Various
Country of origin United Kingdom
Location Sheffield (1989-2000)
London (2000-present)
Official website warp.net

Warp, commonly referred to as Warp Records, is an independent British record label, founded in Sheffield in 1989, specialising in experimental electronic music and Intelligent dance music.

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.[1] The name was chosen because the original name, 'Warped Records', was difficult to distinguish over the telephone.[2] Warp soon became home to artists who would be influential in electronic music.



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.[3] It set a trend for the early releases both in terms of sound,[4][5] 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;[6]:309 by coincidence, that same month another Warp act, Tricky Disco, reached #14 in the UK chart with another eponymous single, "Tricky Disco".[6]: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).[7] 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,[2] also in London between 1997 and 1999,[8] 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:[citation needed] 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 operation 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.[9] 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.

On 27 September 2004, Warp released its second music video compilation, named WarpVision, featuring most of the videos produced from 1989 to 2004.[10]

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",[11] referring to the This Is Your Life UK TV series.

The label continued to expand its roster, signing acts including !!!, Battles, Born Ruffians, Maxïmo Park, Gravenhurst and Grizzly Bear.

For the label's 20th anniversary in 2009, several Warp20 concerts took place in Paris, New York City, Sheffield, Tokyo, Berlin and London.[12] Warp also celebrated by releasing the Warp20 box set,[12] 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.[13] 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[14] 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,[15] alongside artist Jeremy Deller, inspired by Deller's work 'The History of the World',[16] with contributions from Oneohtrix Point Never, Patten, Darkstar, Hudson Mohawke and Rustie.

2014 marked the 25th anniversary of Warp Records.

Warp Music Videos[edit]

Warp has released a number of ground-breaking and original videos that have launched their directors' careers. While at London's Central Saint Martins art school, Jarvis Cocker directed the videos for LFO's 1990 eponymous "LFO" track and Aphex Twin's 1993 track "On".

Chris Cunningham directed videos for Aphex Twin's 1997 "Come To Daddy" and 1999 "Windowlicker". "Come To Daddy" was chosen by Pitchfork as the best video of the 1990s, and "Windowlicker" was one of four nominations for the Best British Video award at the 2000 Brit Awards.

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[17] and Video of the Year, at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards.[18] On 12 April, Adam Buxton hosted BUG: Warp Records Special[19] at the BFI Southbank, London, as part of Warp Films' 10th Anniversary.

Artists past and present[edit]

Warp subsidiaries and partnerships[edit]

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.

A number of music sub labels have also been set up by Warp, namely Lex Records (now operates independently from Warp), Gift Records and Arcola.

Warp assists in the distribution of certain records released by LuckyMe and Night Slugs/Fade To Mind; the aforementioned labels are partner labels (not subsidiary) of Warp.

Selected discography[edit]

Artificial Intelligence Series[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Southern, Richard (2003) "Label of Love: WARP", X-RAY, April 2003, Swinstead Publishing
  2. ^ a b Young, Rob (2006). Labels Unlimited: Warp. London: Black Dog Publishing. p. 164. ISBN 1-904772-32-3. 
  3. ^ Birke, Sarah (2 November 2007). "Label Profile: Warp Records". The Independent. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "The secret history of Warp Records". Fact (UK magazine). 17 April 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Bleep: The story of Britain's first bass revolution". Resident Advisor. 2 December 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  6. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. pp. 309, 567. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  7. ^ Dan Sicko & Bill Brewster (2010), Techno Rebels (2nd ed.), Wayne State University Press, p. 76, ISBN 0-8143-3438-5, retrieved 28 May 2011 
  8. ^ "Powerhaus". BOC pages. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  9. ^ "Warp Records Reject DRM, Go Bleep". Slashdot. 28 January 2004. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Warp's Vision on DVD". Resident Advisor. 14 July 2004. Retrieved 26 February 2013. 
  11. ^ West, Paul (Spring 2006). Eye Magazine | Review | Behind the bleeps. eyemagazine.com. Retrieved on 26 February 2013.
  12. ^ a b Michaels, Sean (27 March 2009). "Warp Records unveils 20th anniversary celebrations". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "AIM Independent Music Awards: 2013". Association of Independent Music. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Warp Records: Listen to a preview of 'Universal Everything & You' by Simon Pyke, to be released on deluxe vinyl". Warp Records. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Warp Records: Watch a film from the Warp x Tate event by Teddy Fitzhugh". Warp Records. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "Jeremy Deller: The History of the World 1997–2004". Tate. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  17. ^ "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Jury Awards in Short Filmmaking" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Winners". UK Music Video Awards. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "BUG: Warp Records Special". British Film Institute. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  20. ^ "Patten". Warp Records. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 

External links[edit]