With IDM daddies Modeselektor in India this week for a two city tour, The Sherp explores the actual origins of the genre of ‘Intelligent Dance Music’.


What is IDM?
Intelligent dance music (or IDM) is a form of electronic music influenced by underground dance music like Detroit techno and various breakbeat styles emerging in the UK in the early ‘90s. The atmospheric and beat-oriented music is more likely to be appreciated with a good pair of headphones than on the dance floor. Born out of a fusion between hard-edged dance music and downtempo music, IDM is usually dense and thought-provoking.

The genre has been the subject of intense criticism, mainly due to its name. Artists refrain from calling their music ‘intelligent’ as it implies that other styles of dance music are considered ‘stupid’ (which is obviously not true). In fact, many artists have produced tracks that would fall under this category, but none of them really classify their work as ‘IDM’ anymore. All music points out that the terminology is essentially meant for experimental electronic music that does not fall into any specific category. IDM does not possess the combining tempo or rhythm that puts it all together like other subgenres of dance music.

The term originated in 1993 in the US from the Warp Records compilation series ‘Artificial Intelligence’. Some of the crucial artists of this genre include Aphex Twin (often cited as the pioneer of the scene), Plaid, Boards of Canada, Plastikman (Richie Hawtin), Autechre, Flying Lotus, B12 and Black Dog Productions. They often incorporate syncopated and heavily-processed percussion in their tracks.

In the mid-90s, the IDM style started to deviate from the techno and house sounds. Artists began employing a more beat-focused approach or simply went further down the path of experimentation. Squarepusher merged his reckless approach to Drum ‘n’ Bass with techniques found on jazz fusion records.

And then we have Modeselektor  –  made up of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary, who apart from drawing heavy influences from electro house and IDM are self-proclaimed genre non-conformists.

“Happy metal, hard rap, country-ambient, Russian crunk. We don’t like it if people tag us as being a certain style or school or scene or whatever. We don’t really care about all that.”

Over the years, there have been frequent attempts to rename the genre to clear the negative connotation. Warp records suggested ‘electronic listening music’ while Aphex Twin proposed ‘braindance’. However, fans continue to stick to the term IDM.

Regardless of genre – stereotyping, The Sherp has his own little list of IDM music you should definitely check out :