Various - WXAXRXP Sessions

  • 30 years of Warp on the radio, ripped legally for the first time.
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  • Warp is it, really, isn't it? A pinnacle of creativity in electronic music. An incredibly adventurous label that reaches a massive, loyal audience. It's the label that signs the most interesting talent. The home of Aphex Twin, Autechre, Flying Lotus, Kelela and tens of other trailblazers. Its story began in Sheffield in 1989 during the UK's acid house explosion. The bleep sound Warp helped shape and popularise was probably the UK's first truly innovative response to US house and techno, a sound to call its own. Through the Artificial Intelligence series, the label laid the groundwork for experimental electronic music as we know it today—music that didn't rely on a club environment to come alive—and went on to explore new sonic possibilities through IDM and fusions of guitars and dance music. The creation of, or response to, many major movements of electronic music's past three decades can be found in its vast catalogue. But being known as one of the best comes with drawbacks. Warp's celebrated past means that its present is, at any given time, scrutinised like few other labels. For every Autechre diehard who thinks the label lost its soul in the early 2000s, there is someone else who knows it as the hip imprint behind Yves Tumor, TNGHT and DJ Nigga Fox. Anyone remember the response when Warp signed the indie four-piece Maxïmo Park? In fact, the band signings the label made around the mid-'00s—!!!, Grizzly Bear, Battles—was, at times, divisive, and mixed opinions over the label's work with guitars date back to the mid-'90s. Discogs is littered with grumbling record collectors calling for Warp to repress albums from its back catalogue, the most famous example of which was The Other People Place's Lifestyles Of The Laptop Café (they got round to it in 2017). I'd guess a large portion of people interested in electronic music have at least some relationship with Warp. They have a horse in the race, an often passionate view on what it does. All of which forms the backdrop to WXAXRXP Sessions, the extended box set released to mark Warp's 30th anniversary. Even by the label's standards of ambitious anniversary projects, this one is eye-catching. In June, it joined the London radio station NTS to broadcast over 100 hours of music. There were live sessions, mixes and unheard material, with contributions from a massive range of Warp's roster. Tracks from these sessions were then collected across ten 12-inches, available separately and bundled together in this lavish box set. If you also include Warp Tapes 89-93, the collection of unreleased Autechre material they broadcast and later released as a free download, and the various recordings of shows in the NTS archive, it all makes for an incredibly substantial statement on Warp's past and present. In turn, the individual 12-inches come with their own subplots. Boards Of Canada are such revered, enigmatic figures that simply including an unreleased track, "XYZ," felt like a huge deal when it got a digital release in September. (They also recorded a lovely two-hour mix as part of the broadcast.) This dreamy, scratchy IDM cut is joined on the 12-inch by other recordings from the same live session, recorded for John Peel in 1998: "Aquarius (Version 3)," "Happy Cycling" and "Olson (Version 3)." All three are sublime examples of the Scottish duo's bucolic downtempo sound—they were released together on a 12-inch in 1999 and also appeared as a bonus CD on a limited-edition Japanese version of their classic album Music Has The Right To Children. This kind of detailed, record-collector nerdiness is also very Warp. Sessions for John Peel, the iconic BBC Radio 1 DJ who died suddenly in 2004, make up half of these 12-inches, perhaps the most notable of which comes from LFO, one of Warp's original leading acts. The four inclusions are all exclusives, dating back to 1990. Could any of them have made it onto Frequencies, the 1991 album regularly cited as one of the best and most influential electronic music albums of all time? Perhaps not. These are slightly more lightweight and less developed iterations of music from that album, although they're still offcuts from an era-defining blueprint, the distinct combination of rubbery synthesiser lines, bold drums and hot atmospheres abundantly clear. In Seefeel's early days they apparently sent a demo to Peel, who eventually called the band's Sarah Peacock to say how much he enjoyed it. The image of an unknown band giving a cassette to a Radio 1 DJ, and said DJ warmly responding by phone, is both quaint and an illustration of how long ago Warp signed its original act with guitars. The band's 12-inch, which includes two exclusive tracks, is a standout of the box set. The exclusives, "Rough For Radio" and "Phazemaze," are both deliciously dubby and hazy. "Starethrough" and "Vex" have more edge, particularly "Vex," whose chugging beat and tense strings would sound good in a club. In the context of the anniversary, you might sense a link between Seefeel and contemporary Warp acts like Yves Tumour, both sharing a love of washed-out atmospheres and blends of guitars and electronics. What else? The Aphex Twin disc, another Peel session, this time from 1995, features the original mix of "Radiator," the second track from Selected Ambient Works II. This version has the same unsettling keys, but develops into a robust club number. The Plaid 12-inch, yet another Peel session, has four exclusive tracks, which range from the colourful "Elide" to the itchy electronica of "Housework," a highlight of the collection. Mount Kimbie, Bibio and Kelly Moran feature with music from sessions they recorded for the NTS broadcast. Moran in particular is a nice inclusion, her calming acoustic pieces bringing a welcome change in tonality to the party. The Flying Lotus tracks, recorded at Maida Vale in 2010, are gorgeous, full live versions of favourites like "MmmHmm" and "Tea Leaf Dancers," as well as a sumptuous exclusive called "Golden Axe." There's also plenty of quality in the four cuts of futuristic melodrama from Oneohtrix Point Never, an artist who symbolises how on-point the ears of Warp's A&Rs still are. I used the word "lavish" earlier to describe the box set itself, and I wasn't kidding. The 12-inch sleeves, designed by Michael Oswell with photography by Synchrodogs, look fantastic together, the kind of thing you'd want casually splayed across a coffee table. It's difficult to know what to make of the language used to describe parts of the package—"Finished with a gloss lamination and die cut to shape with radius corner"—but it sounds impressive. The whole thing will cost you £120, but there are probably enough Warp completists out there to snap up the whole run. It'd be impossible to make an objective claim about the artists who should or shouldn't have been included on WXAXRXP Sessions, so I'll just say that, personally speaking, an artist from the more recent generation—Danny Brown, Gaika, Yves Tumour, Kelela or Hudson Mohawke—could have been cool. But maybe a curatorial lean towards the past was intentional. Warp will always be held to impossibly high standards because of its impossibly high achievements. No single label can unite an entire scene, but Warp is among those that come the closest.
  • Tracklist
      Aphex Twin - Peel Session 2 A1 Slo Bird Whistle A2 Radiator (Original Mix) B1 p-string B2 Pancake Lizard Bibio - WXAXRXP Session A1 Haikuesque A2 Petals B1 All the Flowers B2 Lovers Carvings Boards Of Canada - Peel Session A1 Aquarius (Version 3) A2 Happy Cycling B1 Olson (Version 3) B2 XYZ Flying Lotus - Presents INFINITY "Infinitum" - Maida Vale Session A1 MmmHmm A2 Golden Axe B1 Tea Leaf Dancers B2 Drips Kelly Moran - WXAXRXP Session A1 In Parallel (Acoustic) A2 Helix 2 (TransAcoustic) B1 Interlude 1 B2 Love Birds (Acoustic) B3 Radian (TransAcoustic) LFO - Peel Session A1 Take Control A2 To The Limit B1 Rob's Nightmare B2 Lost World Mount Kimbie - WXAXRXP Session A1 You Look Certain (I'm Not So Sure) feat. Andrea Balency A2 Delta B1 Marilyn feat. Micachu B2 Made To Stray Oneohtrix Point Never - KCRW Session A1 Love In The Time Of Lexapro A2 RayCats B1 Toys 2 B2 Chrome Country Plaid - Peel Session 2 A1 Housework A2 Kiterider B1 Elide B2 Lazybeams Seefeel - Peel Session A1 Rough For Radio A2 Starethrough B1 Vex B2 Phazemaze