“Intelligent” dance music assumes there’s such as thing as ‘stupid’ dance music. There’s also a snobbish assumption to the name that many attached (and still attach) to the genre– that Warp Records originally dubbed “electronic listening music” for their original 1992/93 ‘Artificial Intelligence’ comps (surely ELM is a bit of a better title?)–, as if to say “this stuff is for intelligent ears only, whilst that other stuff that doesn’t feature is somehow less worthy and a bit thick”.
Well, this writer for one also likes “thick” music (three-chord punk, happy hardcore ? ) as much as so-called IDM (let us stick with the slightly more palatable (and kind of more suited) IDM, shall we?
Here we choose our favourite, and most crucial, 10 best IDM albums ever.
Biosphere — ‘Patashnik’ (1994, Biophon)
Reissued last year, this LP remains one of the go-to IDM albums. As much influenced by Eno as the FSOL, this dark sounding record flows as if on a cold, crisp mission to space. Sounds like it was created on really good equipment, the sort that no-one else had gotten hold of.
The Black Dog — ‘Bytes’ (1993, Wax Trax!)
Still sounds like nothing else before or since, this record. An early Warp classic, and the first LP this writer picked up by the label in question. Perplexing, offcut signatures of urban life that was strangely alluring.
Polygon Window — ‘Surfing On Sine Waves’ (1992, Warp)
Techno music for home listening, if you will. From late night acid-pusher curiosities (Untitled) through to fast rhythm energetic assiduity (Quoth), with the occasional IDM comedown groover (Redruth School).
Arovane — Atol Scrap (1999, DIN)
First full album release by German’s classicist maker of enchanting electronica, Uwe Zahn.
F.U.S.E. — ‘Dimension Intrusion’ 1993, Plus 8)
Richie Hawtin in late night sub Aphex ambient-acid, before he went all noise-clattering and a bit bonkers later on in the decade.
Autechre — ‘Amber’ (1994, Warp)
An early Ae classic of pretty synth melody and rigorous application. The more complex follow-up album ‘Tri Repetae’ raised the bar even further.
Global Communication — ’76:14 (1994, Didicated)
An experiment in half-pleasant, half-weird as fuck ambient techno. One can imagine falling asleep with this LP on, and allowing it to become your dreams. Remains a bit of a classic to this day. Electro-funk one moment, sinister drone-drift the next.
Future Sound of London — ‘Lifeforms’ (1992, Virgin)
A sometimes overly long, bordering on indulgent double disc set, this one. In hindsight the samples and mood sounds come across close to cliché, but back in 1992 it all wasn’t so much. Still, this concept album of ambient chill and post rave other worldliness still sounds unique. Of a time, yes, and yet still a thing from the future.
Bedouin Ascent — ‘Science Art And Ritual’ (1994, Rising High)
Debut LP released via seminal electro label Rising High, and an item that is now hard to get hold of. long tracks of big, wide soundscapes here, pushing boundaries in scope and colour.
Bola — Soup (1998, Skam)
On the imprint that gave us those early Boards of Canada releases, this is beautifully and simply constructed analogue fare; bouncy, colourful, but also at points a little more spacey and peculiar.