UK-based label Warp Records has been active since 1989. For a listening study I’ve been working on since July 2018, I created a 321 hour 38 minute (13.4 days) long playlist comprised of the 4,294 songs I could find in Warp Records’ discography. I listened to every song. The releases are incredibly eclectic, spanning from IDM, breakbeat, acid house, ambient, and other forms of electronic music to indie rock, R&B, and hip hop. Over the course of my listening study, it’s become clear to me that Warp Records is the most innovative record label I know of in the music industry.
The number of talented artists who have graced Warp Records with their music is staggering. In this piece, I will highlight Aphex Twin, The Hundred In The Hands, Squarepusher, Grizzly Bear, Kelela, Boards of Canada, Jackson and His Computer Band, Jamie Lidell, Autechre, Nightmares On Wax, Oneohtrix Point Never, Bibio, Plaid, Maximo Park, Gravenhurst, and a few others, but I want to make clear that the artists I highlight are by no means an exhaustive list of Warp Records’ roster.
I narrowed down the 4,294 Warp Records songs I listened to to a 136 song playlist, but to do so, I made two listening passes. I first listened to every track in a Warp Records’ Complete Discography playlist, then I filtered my favorites from there into a Warp Records Highlights playlist, and from there, I placed my very favorite tracks from Warp Records’ discography in a Best of Warp Records Highlights playlist, which you can find embedded here:
Aphex Twin should need little introduction, which is perfect since over the course of this post, I’ll primarily be focusing on the music rather than the backstory of artists or even Warp as a label.
Let’s start with “Windowlicker”:
If you’ve heard of some of Aphex Twin’s music, chances are you’ve heard “Windowlicker.” Besides the spectacular sounds Aphex Twin designed for this track, my favorite part of “Windowlicker” is the arrangement, which keeps you guessing, even after listening countless times. For about the first 15â€“20 times I listened to this track, I expected the big climactic release of energy that comes at 4:53 to come at 3:58 â€” Aphex Twin is tricky like that. Another highlight is the music videoÂ â€” watch it now if you haven’t seen it already.
“Avril 14th” features beautiful melodies and harmonies, a composition that really shows off Aphex Twin’s knack for composing a melodious masterpiece.
Gentle, but this time with a breakbeat, “Flim” is a pleasing, compelling listen.
Again gentle, but this time with a bit more bite, “Alberto Balsalm” hits the the spot.
This was actually the first Aphex Twin track that popped up on my radar a few years ago. I’ve found many more gems since then, but this one is still special to me.
The Hundred In The Hands
Of artists that I hadn’t heard of before starting my Warp Records listening project, The Hundred In The Hands was one of my favorite finds. “Pigeons” is one of my favorite tracks from their catalog. It’s so catchy and very memorable â€” this track stands the test of time.
“Dressed In Dresden” has incredible intensity that is driven by the drums, but besides the drums and the bassline, my favorite part of the track is where the lead singer says “maybe I don’t know” at 1:33 … the lush pad breakdown after that is really good too.
This one is gorgeous. My favorite part is the resonance accompanying the percussive arppegiated sequence at moments like 2:04. The choral break at 2:28 is breathtaking.
Squarepusher is my favorite artist on Warp â€” I listened to 27 hours of Squarepusher in 2018 according to Spotify and I savored every it. “Do You Know Squarepusher” is a good introduction to his knack for melody and compelling productions along with his glitchy breakbeat style.
“Beep Street” is off of Squarepusher’s debut album,Â Hard Normal Daddy and it is a beautiful track through and through.
I group “Planetarium” and “Tomorrow World” together due to their lead melodic structure, and man, I can’t get enough of them. These tracks make perfect driving music.
“My Red Hot Car (Girl)” is a classic â€” it’s a great representation of Squarepusher’s sound.
“Dissolver” has grown to be my favorite Squarepusher track. If you can get past the rhythmic instability in the intro and in other moments in the track, the music here is incredibly original and beautiful. I can’t get enough of this track.
Grizzly Bear’sÂ Yellow House album put them on my radar â€” “Knife” and “Easier” are two of my favorites from the album. Grizzly Bear’s presence on Warp goes to show the incredible musical diversity in the record label’s catalog.
“Two Weeks” is a nice composition off of Grizzly Bear’sÂ VeckatimestÂ album.
Two bonus Grizzly Bear tracks! This cover version they did of their own “Knife” track adds a substantive, 80s-inspired spin on the original. Meanwhile, Nicolas Jaar’s hauntingly beautiful remix of “Sleeping Ute” shows off Jaar’s impressive musical prowess.
DC-native Kelela took the scene by storm. “Rewind” and “Frontline” are two of my favorite original Kelela tracks.
The above three remixes of Kelela on Warp are also spectacular, especially the one by DJ Lag.
Boards of Canada
Boards of Canada has fantastic beat-driven chill music. To start off the Boards of Canada section of this post, I’ve selected “Roygbiv,” a track that features fun, tuneful melodies and a good backbeat.
Also off ofÂ Music Has The Right To Children, “Aquarius” is a funk-infused track with memorable vocal samples.
The Campfire HeadphaseÂ is arguably Boards of Canada’s most memorable album, so I’mÂ sharing the whole album. I have the first 10 tracks saved on Spotify along with tracks 12 and 15, but “Dayvan Cowboy” is the climax of the album if you’re looking to skip around.
“Sixtyniner” is another good, chill Boards of Canada track from their Twoism album to close out the Scottish duo’s section in this Warp Records feature.
Jackson And His Computer Band
“Arp #1” is the perfect introduction to Jackson And His Computer Band’s work on Warp. The track features compelling synth sounds, a strong arrangement, and is the perfect soundtrack to drive fast to.
“Fast Life” and “Arpeggio” are my two favorite tracks off of Jackson And His Computer Band’sÂ Smash album. “Fast Life” features vocals and a good arpeggio, and “Arpeggio” makes good use of drums, and well, an arpeggiated synth.
Jamie Lidell is Warp’s soulful English musician and singer and “She Needs Me” is my favorite song of his â€” this is love-making music at its finest.
“Your Sweet Boom” is another fun, strong track off of his Compass album.
Lidell’sÂ Jim album is an excellent album that is a good representation of his work. It also makes an excellent present to family members who are into music â€” I gifted the album to my father for his birthday this past year and he loved it. The above tracks are my two favorites off the album.
English duo Autechre has an immense body of work that is incredibly eclectic. Some of their music can be hard to get into for the uninitiated, but once you’re exposed to enough of it, you will learn to appreciate their art. I’m featuring four of their tracks that I think may be accessible to our readers. These first two are off their Tri RepetaeÂ album.
“VLetrmx” is a peaceful yet epic track that has a wonderful build and release â€” it’s off of theirÂ Garbage album.
“mirrage” is off of theirÂ NTS Session 4 album from last year â€” if you like this, be sure to check out “All End” on the same album.
Nightmares On Wax
Nightmares On Wax recently paid a visit to DC and I’m bummed I missed him, because I have an increased appreciation for his music after doing this Warp listening project. “You Wish” is the quintessential Nightmares On Wax track for me.
These are two tracks off of Nightmares On Wax’s Carboot Soul album. When I was a teenager, my to-be Brother-in-law gave me this album, so it was nice to hear these tracks again.
Oneohtrix Point Never
These are four tracks that I really enjoyed off of Brooklyn-based artist Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2013 R Plus SevenÂ album.
English musician Bibio has some gorgeous, peaceful music. Above is a track he did with Gotye.
Phantom Brickworks is even more ambient-oriented. These are a few tracks off of those releases.
I saw Plaid a few years back at U Street Music Hall â€” I wish I had done this project before hearing them as I would’ve appreciated their music all the more. “Two Rooms” is a good track to transition you from Bibio into Plaid.
“unbank” is a classic Plaid track that is sure to get you energized.
Above are some more essential Plaid tracks for your listening pleasure 🙂
English band Maximo Park is another testament to how diverse Warp’s catalog is. Besides the catchy hooks and tight drums, my favorite part of Maximo Park’s music is the lead singer’s distinct vocal style.
More Gems from Warp Records Artists
We’re nearing the end of this enormous post, I promise. Before I introduce the closing artist though, here are some gems that I can’t leave out.
Gravenhurst has the perfect sound to close out a night, a long day at work, or a comprehensive post about Warp Records. If you’ve made it this far in this post, you’re in for a treat (especially the very last track).