Not distorted or Warped

Plaid played the 2009 Personal Fest
Plaid played the 2009 Personal Fest

Apart from it being festival season, it’s also cultural exchange season, and we’re on our fourth in as many weeks. Following musician Jerónimo Saer and his liaison with the French Alliance, South African artists and musicians dominating the Trimarchi festival and Canadian micro sampler Akufen headlining Mutek 2 last Sunday, this week it’s the turn of the UK.

The British Council has started an incubator project aiming to help Argentines in the music industry forge links with their British counterparts and this just happens to be loosely tying in with the twentieth anniversary of Warp, an independent record label that has brought the likes of Aphex Twin to our ears.

Warp has been taking its celebrations seriously, with dance music nights taking place in Paris, New York and Sheffield, the original and now spiritual home of the label, with events in Tokyo, London and Berlin to follow.

Over the past few days, All Tomorrow’s Parties has been screened (a rockumentary featuring live shows from Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Portishead and Yeah Yeah Yeahs; last night Tom Panton, head of live events, hosted a workshop in San Telmo and two intelligent dance music (IMD) acts, Plaid and Bibio, play the Personal Fest.

Unfortunately Tim Exile, who was due to play, hasn’t come as, according to Panton, “he got really ill. Tim’s been touring intensively this year, going between time zones in the US quite heavily, and it got to a point where it caught up with him last week. It’s a real shame, but I think it’s for the best that he didn’t come on this tour, otherwise it might have made him very ill.”

He adds: “Bibio will do a fine job stepping in for Tim, and he’s actually as big as him in the US at the moment.”

Despite this upset, the celebrations continue and Panton, who is here for the second time in Argentina, talked to the Herald last night prior to hosting the workshop about the label and new music. “Warp was founded by Rob Mitchell and Steve Beckett in Sheffield and I’ve been at the label since 2001, just after they moved to London.”

The live events head honcho, from a personal viewpoint, is most proud of this year’s anniversary achievements. “We’ve held a series of events around the world, but being in BA isn’t strictly part of Warp 20. However, the Council’s project is about bringing very independent record labels to South America to help cross the connections with promotors and build a relationship, which is why we are here. It wouldn’t have worked combining it with Warp 20, which is a series of events led by us, as we’ve only got two artists here!”

The label isn’t only making new contacts but Panton has also been discovering new styles of Latin music, and one in particular has caught his ear. “There’s bits of cumbia which we get in the UK which everyone’s latched onto. I actually like the older styles such as tropical music as well as the more psychedelic Argentine stuff but Brazilian favela music is good as well.”

This trip is also proving beneficial for the label’s artists, he adds. “They are really into it as they get to travel to Santiago, San Pablo and Buenos Aires. Normally it’s a fly-in, fly-out kind of job playing at a big festival, which they have done in BA before, but it’s really hard for them to tour these sorts of cities without this kind of support from the British Council.”

2008’s Personal Fest was guitar-focused whereas 2009 is showing a whole lot of electronic love. Panton’s point of view? “That’s good! I’ve seen the Pet Shop Boys before, they are what they are and they’re interesting musically. But dance music is as big as it’s ever been and big acts are still coming through. You could say the experimental electronic music that was pioneered in the 1990s hasn’t got the market it did have, but it’s still there. Dubstep is really big in England at the moment, and that’s being mixed with techno to make a new exchange. London’s really vibrant and loads of African beats are coming through. It’s racially mixed and exciting.”

The Warp posse aren’t hanging about, however, so you should see Plaid and Bibio now or… another time, when they’ll hopefully get to make use of their new Argentine contacts.

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