Though still totally independent, Sheffield's Warp Records is a major success in the world of electronic music. Started eight years ago by Steve Beckett and Rob Mitchell, who ran a specialist dance music shop in the city, the label has released over 50 albums and will put out their hundredth single in March. An increasingly eclectic roster includes Aphex Twin, Autechre, Jimi Tenor, LFO, Nightmares on Wax and Red Snapper. Though all of their business is run from up north, Warp maintain a London presence through their monthly Blech club night.
January's offering promises a particular party spirit as it's also the 23rd birthday of Warp signing, Squarepusher - aka the big-bearded Tom Jenkinson whose fierce and complicated blend of techno, drum 'n' bass and jazz is one of the most talked-about sounds in electronic circles. Squarepusher will be doing a special "decks 'n' DATs" session, but the bill also allows an opportunity to see Plone, signed by the label just before Christmas, play live. This trio of synth players may be virtually unknown at this point but Plone - Mike, Mark and Billy - are already geared up for interviews in the house they share in Birmingham. Each member has his own phone extension, though some of the connections are stronger than others. Consequently there are the sounds of guys running around the Plone household popping up on different phones to have their say. For people who are dab hands at electronic gadgetry this is something that should be sorted out, especially as it looks like the Ploneline will be busy in the coming months.
To date they've released one limited-edition single comprising two gorgeous mid-tempo tracks that not only owe something to Kraftwerk and Can but are lovingly flecked with the warmth of the Beach Boys and Ennio Morricone (minus the spaghetti that's tending to get tagged onto too many breakbeats these days).
"We want to go out and play songs that rely on melodies rather than just dancey beats and to make full use of our keyboards," offers Mark. On stage they've been described as coming on all Kraftwerk. "Well, er," interjects Billy, "we don't dress like them and we would like to get some lights at some stage but, yes, we do line our keyboards up along the front of the stage. Previously we had all the equipment sat around us, but since we started to play keyboards live it made more sense to set up that way."
The project's been going since 1993 under the name of Rehab. "We changed it pretty soon as it sounded relentlessly techno and anyway there was another band called that," explains Mike. "So we thought we'd change it to something no one else could possibly have and just made a word up."And so Plone was born.
Plone, plus Squarepusher (DJ set): Blech at the Powerhaus (0181-963 0940) 30 Jan