Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A Very Warped History 3: 1994 (1 Of 2)

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And so I return to my regularly scheduled programming, the next Warped entry. 1994 was a big year for Warp (and for me, cuz I was born). Two legendary albums came out in that year, and they both deserve separate posts in my opinion so I'm splitting it into two.

The first of which is Autechre's Amber. Released only six months after Incunabula it's a very similar style (albeit with some experimental and ambient pieces thrown in) for this would be their last album in this style moving onto more Aphexy style IDM after this release. It's a more refined Incunabula but while that may take a few listens to grow on you, Amber shoots straight for your heart.

With such a short time span between albums they share certain aspects (even sharing the same number of tracks) but while Incunabula was cold and metallic, Amber goes for a smoother, more natural approach while maintaining it's predecessor's elements. Like so.

Only three tracks in and Autechre experiment with a quasi-ambient track, Silverside. Combining heavy beats and muffled vocals, it has ties to Autriche from the first album, and even sounds like it uses the same effects that are at the end of Kalpol Introl. but enough comparison, just listen.

Here things take an upbeat turn with Slip, it's very smooth with catchy hooks and various other bleeps. It's one of my favourite examples of early IDM along with Aphex's Selected Ambient Works 85-92. I once heard it described as "music to write code to" so you can guess what it sounds like.

The next few tracks on the album are more Ambient experiments, and this one is hands down my favourite track from the album, tracks like these were what I was referring to with the "shoots for your heart" comment. I can't say much more that that if I'm honest, it's a wonderful song packed with emotion, Give it a listen, it deserves it

Another of the Ambient pieces, it's beauty lies in the simplicity. The same few synth notes play through the entire 6 minutes (although it seems like only 3), along with various other added effects to break it up. Very, very hypnotic.

For the final stretch Autechre return to the stylings of the opening tracks like Montreal, but much softer. the intro to this reminds me of rain (I've never listened to it when it is raining though, sorry Adam) but before I have time to think about that, the driving bassline hits and it just gets better from there. Things take a mellow turn around 4:40 which is a pleasant surprise!

Amber ends on the same note it began on, strong bassy notes and heavy beats with other synths laid over it but this one has a twist, it slows down gradually throughout, making the beats heavier and the bass notes softer, until it gradually fades out. an great end to a fantastic album if I do say so.

That ends another Warped instalment, as we enter the prime time of their releases, we'll be seeing some really classic stuff. And the next half of this post is only the beginning, So please stay tuned for that, you won't wanna miss it!

Let's Do The Warp Again,
-Claude Van Foxbat

Monday, 2 August 2010

A Very Warped History 2 : 1993

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A few years after the release of LFO, Warp was still enjoying moderate success, carving itself a niche as the label of experimental artists and revolutionary ideas. In 1992, Warp started what they called the Artificial Intelligence series. Designed to show the creative and flexible sounds that could be achieved with electronic equipment, Warp themselves described it as "Electronic Listening Music" to not be played as background or in DJ sets, but to be listened to with "an open mind"

The cover to the first compilation features an Android asleep in an armchair surrounded by Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd albums. Steve Beckett explains:

"You could sit down and listen to it like you would a Kraftwerk or Pink Floyd album. That's why we put those sleeves on the cover of Artificial Intelligence - to get it into people's minds that you weren't supposed to dance to it! ”
—Steve Beckett, Co-Founder of Warp, on the Artificial Intelligence I compilation

The artificial Intelligence Series Consists of 8 albums (2 of which are compilations) by artists such as Autechre, F.U.S.E, Black Dog Productions and Polygon Window (AKA Aphex Twin)

Obviously I can't post all of these albums, so it came down to Polygon Window or Autechre, and Autechre won in the IDM department (which is a term I hate, but will use for easy identification and whatnot)
Incunabula (derived from the Latin for something in it's infancy or in early development) is a very strange album indeed, it wasn't actually intended to BE an album, it was simply a compilation Autechre sent in to Warp shortly after they were signed. It sounds incredibly futuristic for it's time (as did almost all of the AI series) yet Incunabula resonates on a higher level, the music is cold and metallic with futuristic stylings; yet it manages to be warm, fuzzy and nostalgic at the same time thanks to the analogue equipment.

The limited edition was pressed on silver vinyl, combined with the artwork, very reminiscent of Kraftwerk no?
Anyway, The introduction from the album will back up everything I've said, featuring the signature warm synths and industrial-esque beats

and while I'm here I have some more tracks from this truly classic milestone in the history of IDM to share with you.

This track sums up almost the entire album perfectly, using simple bleeps to create something intricate

Autriche follows the same pattern, this time throwing muffled vocal samples in with the synths and beats. A treat for headphone users

Eggshell was originally released on AI 1 compilation as The Egg, which was a more dance floor friendly version of Shell, which on the album is a nine minute example of how the equipment of the era could be pushed to do extraordinary things

Lowride doesn't fit with the rest, it's not dark or industrial at all it's almost chillout, a genre which hadn't really been coined yet. As it's name suggests it takes more than a little inspiration from hip hop, and the intoxicating bassline does wonders too.

The final track caps everything off nicely with a slow and lumbering quasi-ambient intro eventually giving way to more beats and bloops. A must listen

also, a nice bonus for all of you bothered to read all this, Aphex Twin's other release from 1993, On. Released in November of 1993, the Twin begins to experiment with IDM moving away from his acid house roots. The result was another incredible hit for the style, and cemented it's place in the world of electronic music as a legitimate genre

On is a lovely piece starting off soft with a piano and a rainstorm sample. However it soon morphs into a monster that is the baby of Acid and AFX's newly evolving style. and it still sounds fresh today

The other standout track is 73-Yips which is Aphex's last attempt at anything Acidy. It goes down a treat though, definitely a staple for anyone who is a fan of the Twin.

and after all that, I must leave. Sorry for the wall of text, but the story of warp demands to be heard :D

Dispensing the modern classics,
-Claude Van Foxbat