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10+2: Classics 89-92
El-Camel's Ratings:

Warp Records
michael white


Sheffield, (ex) steel city of the North. A hotbed of activity for early ‘80s synth-pop - and more: Human League, Heaven 17, Cabaret Voltaire… fertile ground for a distinctive and warped, industrial-electronic complex. More than just an historical blip: this ambience entered the local psyche and helped to create a Warp receptive audience.

Beckett and Mitchell had filled their house with the US vibe. They now sought the home grown - setting the controls to Warp Factor Two: and a growing audience was hooked on Classics 89-92. From purple haze – all early Warp releases came in any colour you liked as long as the sleeve was deep purple; as a listener you found your own colours in the vibrant brush work of the mixes – they slowly made the ambitious transition to expand the audience by dint of being more user friendly… revealing the faces behind the corporate (NB: refers to sleeve uniformity only) mask.

As true sons of the pioneers, a little bit of mystery in the recording artist – audience relationship had raised their ardour: the ethic worked for them so they worked the ethic ‘arder. However, as dance music defied gravity some bass people needed it all spelled out and found themselves intimidated without the attendant cult of personality. It was all too mechanical, robotic and removed they said. So you now got your dose of Warp addiction in the best oop North tradition - wi’ nowt taken out.

Let yourself into the front door that is Forgemasters’ ‘Track With No Name’ – a high, echoing vocal chant in a cathedral of sound: built to last. Nightmares on Wax?… more a dream (and a dream top 40 hit for Warp): the incessant minimalism of ‘Dextrous’ is strangely unnerving; the rhythmic chill of a glacial plain with visitations from twinkling Northern lights. On ‘Aftermath’ they’re taking their pet bleep for a walk in a landscape of otherwordly beats. ‘I’m For Real’ is a thumpmeister of a track so wipe your feet on the dance floor mat saying welcome to my nightmare.

Sweet Exorcist – commander: Richard Kirk from Cabaret Voltaire – take the sparse beat route: five tones to the dark side of the tune – alien state. ‘Testone’… pumped-up testosterone zone. ‘Testfour’ - also takes five; then it’s drone tone as a little green man clears his bass throat with a low-down chant: Warp a(d)vant(ced) g(u)arde. And there’s sweet humour: ‘Clonk (Freebass)’ is great for exorcising the belly (laugh)… it’s the Clangers on Planet Acid. Want some more laughs? Try ‘Tricky Disco’ with their eponymous track: a quirky duck on helium and er, don’t worry Warp paid the bill.

Other stars in the Northern firmament? LFO have a chiselled obduracy and plenty of that prototypical bass grit. ‘LFO (Leeds Warehouse Mix);’ ‘Track 4’ and ‘Probe’ float in on intros that evoke space ship landings spiked with trip-hop beats: a world apart. DJ Mink: rap and sampling on ‘Hey Hey! Can U Relate?’ – we surely could. Tuff Little Unit – but big attitude on ‘Join The Future’… militaristic beat and jazz keyboard style.

A common theme from the Warp A-team: the simple/complexity!? of the building rhythms interspersed with wide-eyed alien child melodies plink-plonked out like Christmas morning Casio/ Stylophone at home. Join the Future… the future was Warp. Man (and woman) needed a good night’s bleep - but could not live on this alone. So Rob and Steve set the controls to Warp Factor Three for a shift from planet dance to all things electric: led by a roster of artists with visible personality, and their fine noses for a jolly good tune…

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10+2: Classics 89-92

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