Intelligent Dance Music is one of the most interesting genres to ever grace popular music. The baby between House and Ambient, IDM is made for you to think about as opposed to dance to. Having trouble getting through all the bells and whistles? No problem! Here are five IDM albums to help you get started.
Aphex Twin - ‘Selected Ambient Works 85-92’ (1992)
Once you get past the creepy imagery and the nightmare-inducing visuals, the music is stellar with this one. A god to the IDM world, Aphex Twin almost singlehandedly created the genre along with other artists from Warp Records. That recognition began with 1992’s “Selected Ambient Works 85-92”, arguably the most important album the genre has ever produced. While not as technically proficient as albums that would come later, such as “I Care Because You Do,” “The Richard D. James Album” and “Syro,” the album is able to sound sophisticated while also able to maintain melodies that you could theoretically dance to. Richard D. James is a master at work, and a perfect place for you to both start and end with your IDM exploration.
Autechre - ‘Tri Repetae’ (1995)
The second of four artists on this list to have come from Warp Records, Autechre has proven to be as prolific an artist as you’ll ever meet. The duo gained fame after perfecting their repetitive and intense style of IDM, and nowhere is that better shown than on “Tri Repetae.” Whereas the groups last two albums sounded more in the electronica vein, “Tri Repetae” threw it all out the window to create a minimalist masterpiece. If you prefer harsh sonics to something resembling acid house, this is the best starting point for you.
Boards of Canada - ‘Music Has The Right to Children’ (1998)
Now for something completely different. Where Autechre and Aphex Twin were focused on making music to make you think, Boards of Canada were focusing on creating an album that made you feel. That album? “Music Has The Right To Children.” As opposed to making an intricate record, Boards of Canada created more of a moody record that you could just kind of vibe with. IDM had never sounded this zen before. If the sounds of IDM floating about around this time are too visceral on your ears, maybe give this one a shot instead.
Four Tet - ‘Rounds’ (2003)
The only artist on this list to have not come from Warp Records, Four Tet’s second album took IDM in a new direction and brought the genre into the 21st century. Using elements that could be considered more organic sounding, “Rounds” accomplished in making an IDM album that felt wholly unique and completely different. Spearheading the folktronica sub-genre, the album also showed that there’s so much more IDM beyond the digital sounds that it had been used to throughout its short history.
Flying Lotus - ‘Cosmogramma’ (2010)
One of the few albums on this list to feature regular vocals, Flying Lotus’ “Cosmogramma” is a different kind of IDM album. Featuring vocals from Thundercat, Laura Darlington and Thom Yorke, “Cosmogramma” is an outside-the-box take on what IDM could be in the modern age. Utilizing various different elements from all across the board of popular music, the third album by producing wizard Flying Lotus is a triumph in both experimentation and design. As the most recent album on this list, this would be the best starting point if you’d prefer to hear what the genre has morphed into since the early nineties.