Braindance - An Introduction to the Intelligent Dance Music Genre


You've heard of EDM, right? We all have. If you are really into Electronic Dance Music, all you need to do is hit up some of Raina's articles to really get your info. EDM, and its many subgenres, have been on the rise in the US for the last few years, and while it was once confined mainly to nightclubs, electronic dance music has taken over the popular scene, be it in the form of House music, Trap music, Dubstep, or whatever subgenre is your preference. This article is not about EDM. Rather, you are about to be introduced to another electronic subgenre known as IDM, or "Intelligent Dance Music." IDM is quite different from classic EDM, and has also been called braindance, ambient techno, art techno, post-techno, intelligent techno, and less descriptively, electronica, all dependent on the style of IDM you'd be listening to. IDM is stylistically different from EDM, bringing the volume down a notch, usually slowing down the pace, and generally taking a break from the rave-feel.

Originating in the early 90s, IDM's first major landmark was a Warp Records compilation album Artificial Intelligence, along with a series of albums and compilations released by Warp Records under the same name throughout 1992. These albums were named partially because of the AI-like synth sounds gracing the tracks selected for the series. These quintessential, foundational albums were the product of a group of artists, mostly British and most of whom would go on to form the base of the entire genre. Namely, the most influential of these musicians were Autechre, The Orb, and Richard James, the man behind The Dice Man, Aphex Twin, and Polygon Window, along with later projects, including AFX. Warp would continue to be incredibly influential in the production and popularization of the IDM sound, and they would be joined by other labels, including Ghostly International, in later years. While the name "Intelligent Dance Music" has been seen as a slight to other forms of electronica, it isnt meant as such, though some notable musicians in the genre object to the term, and instead refer to it by its other nicknames. The original compilation kicking off the era is linked below.

Perhaps the most popular and influential group to hit the Warp label, Boards of Canada produced their first studio album Twoism in 1995, on the label Music70. The group moved to Warp in the late 90s, when they released albums Music Has the Right to Children, Geogaddi, and in 2005, The Campfire Headphase. Boards of Canada has made some pretty significant news recently with the ongoing easter egg hunt for news and rumors regarding the potential release of a new album. Also breaking through in the early/mid-90s was the group Orbital, consisting of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, with their album Snivilisation, on label FFRR.

Joining Aphex Twin, Autechre, and other groups from the Warp label, including Plaid, both Boards and Orbital helped to set the direction of IDM. IDM at its core was reliant on individual experimentation with sounds and beats, though most of the musicians, to this day, rely on breakbeats, common throughout electronica, as well as more subdued, often ambient, synthesized melodies. IDM is just as conversational as it is danceable, which makes for somewhat of a hybrid genre, consisting of a spectrum of sounds ranging from the more ambient, relaxing, and almost drowsy sensuality of newer musician Washed Out, to the fast-paced, rhythmic heaviness of Aphex Twin on his release "Didgeridoo." Most of the genre's musicians lie somewhere in between, especially those from the 2000s. The newer wave of IDM producers include the likes of Tycho, Lusine, Ulrich Schnauss, James Blake, and Flying Lotus, amongst others.

So whether you and some friends are down to kick back in the living room and just hang out, or feeling the need to mix it up with the tunes for your dance party, you can check the links below for some newer tunes in the Braindance collection to start your IDM playlist for the evening.

Get your braindance on,