By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Warp 100: We Are Reasonable People
WARP GAVE REVIEWERS a very nice bottle opener with their promo copy of this celebratory release, which has been issued to coincide with the U.K. label's 100th single. Yet the label remains one of the few electronica entities whose output does not reflect the clandestine beer-ad aspirations of many post-techno gizmo-twisters. That's not to say that Tom "Squarepusher" Jenkinson--their jazz-fusion-loving label impresario--doesn't tend to get a little indulgent.
Warp seems to want its music to be as difficult to dance to as it is comfortable to swim in, which--taking a page from the Brazilian Tropicalia movement of the late '60s--seems to be the crowing point of much of the avant-lounge aesthetic Warp traffics in. Nothing here will hurt your ears, yet many of the 12 tracks on this import release (all brand-new and exclusive) seem to be mocking themselves (and, by extension, the club community), with everything from stuttering beats and silly duck calls to cheesy keyboards. Yet the rhythmic patterns are, on the whole, more sophisticated than most, and manipulated with a real feel for spatial detail.
Broadcast, generally lumped together with the post-Stereolab crowd, contribute "Hammer Without a Master," the finest thing they've ever done, with sleigh bells, jazzy (but repetitious) drum sounds, and a great booming bassline that points out the lost potential in touted Detroit techno-minimalist Plastikman. The Jenkinson/Richard D. James collaboration (which will sell this record) is nothing exceptional for them, but keeps up their high standards--and, fortunately, comes with no fusion bass. Two Lone Swordsmen's "Circulation" is very retro-acid house.
The real discovery here is Mira Calix, whose "Umchunga Locks" employs glockenspiel, quacks, and oddly shaped samples in increasingly complex, roughly hewn patterns. And most of these pieces suggest a band (that is, a musical group with humans in it) fucking things up even as they're being put together. Even the weaker tracks, such as Autechre's so-so "Llasas" and Nightmare on Wax's faux soup commercial "Fishtail Parker," benefit from the sidelong smirk implicit in such an ironic approach. Subtract points for its sounding like shopping music, and consider that, after a year of ego-driven, bombastic electronics, one can stand to hear a little interiority.