Labels Unlimited : Warp

Rob Young

Black Dog / UK / 2006 / ISBN 1 904772 32 2

Though not an record cover book as such, this is worth a look for anyone interested in album sleeve design as a good number of Warp’s often excellent covers do get illustrated along the way. Many were overseen by the Designer’s Republic based originally in Sheffield (I’ve still got a couple of bits of their early artwork somewhere as I organised the printing of some promo posters they did for a local label in the early 80s). By their very nature Warp’s vinyl output is often small production runs and quite culty, so a lot was new to me.

Sleeves aside, this is clearly more a book about the development and history of the label and associated artists (as well as the famous Warp shop/s in town, though even here they don’t seem to be able to agree on when these exactly opened or closed), and well worth a read on that level alone. 

A decent book on Warp’s album visuals has yet to be done but this will fill the gap for now. On the downside, none of the sleeve illustrations give the format. And what an uninspired cover.

Black Dog have since done a couple more books in the labels unlimited series but they lack the depth of knowledge or quality of this one and just seem rushed out to make up the numbers. Their book on Ace Records for example was bizarre, as they didn’t even bother to contact the main man behind a lot of the sleeves – he’s not that difficult to find (hello Phil Smee!).

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