Intelligent dance music (commonly IDM) is a genre name invented in the early 1990s by the creators of an American online mailing list called the 'IDM list'. The IDM electronic mailing list, created by Warp Records fan Alan Parry, characterized acts such as Leftfield, FSOL, Orb, Orbital, Aphex Twin, Black Dog, and B12 as intelligent dance music. The term was used to refer to a number of post-techno artists who were engaging in experimental electronic dance music (EDM) production during the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1992 Warp were marketing the music using the description electronic listening music but this was quickly replaced by intelligent techno. In the same period (1992–93) other names were also used, such as armchair techno, ambient techno, and electronica, but all were attempts to describe an emerging form of dance music for the sedentary and stay at home. Co-owner of Warp Records Steve Beckett has said that "the music was aimed at home listening rather than clubs and dance floors". IDM tends to rely upon individualistic experimentation rather than on a particular set of musical characteristics.
In 1992, Warp Records released Artificial Intelligence, the first album in the Artificial Intelligence series. The record was a collection of tracks from artists such as Autechre, B12, The Black Dog, Aphex Twin, and The Orb, under various aliases. These artists, among others, would eventually become the main topics of conversation in the Intelligent Dance Music List, an electronic mailing list founded in August 1993.
Artists that appeared in the first discussions on the list included Autechre, Atom Heart, LFO, Aphex Twin and others on Rephlex Records, artists such as The Orb, Richard H. Kirk, and Future Sound of London, and even artists like System 7, William Orbit, Sabres of Paradise, Orbital, Plastikman and Björk. Warp's second Artificial Intelligence compilation was released in 1994, featuring posts from the mailing list in the sleeve notes. During this period the electronic music produced by Warp Records artists such as Polygon Window (an alias of Richard D. James), Autechre, LFO, B12, Seefeel, and The Black Dog, gained popularity among electronic music fans. Lesser-known artists on the Likemind label and Kirk Degiorgio's A.R.T. and Op-Art labels, including Degiorgio himself under various names (As One, Future/Past and Esoterik), Steve Pickton (Stasis) and Nurmad Jusat (Nuron) were also gaining acknowledgement, along with artists like Björk and Future Sound of London. British electronic music and techno artists, including Aphex Twin, Cylob, and Mike Paradinas, have criticised the term IDM. Paradinas has stated that the term IDM was only used in America.
In the mid-1990s, North American audiences welcomed IDM, and many IDM record labels were founded, including Drop Beat, Isophlux, Suction, Schematic, and Cytrax. In Miami, Florida, labels like Schematic, AiRecords, Merck Records, Nophi Recordings, and The Beta Bodega Coalition released material by artists such as Phoenecia, Dino Felipe, Machinedrum, and Proem. Another burgeoning scene was the Chicago/Milwaukee area, with labels such as Addict, Chocolate Industries, Hefty, and Zod supporting artists like Doormouse, Trs-80 and Emotional Joystick. Tigerbeat 6, a San Francisco based label has released IDM from artists such as Cex, Kid 606, and Kevin Blechdom Contemporary IDM artists include Himuro Yoshiteru, Kettel, Ochre, Marumari, Benn Jordan, Proem, Lackluster, Arovane, Ulrich Schnauss, and Wisp.
In November 1991, the phrase "intelligent techno" appeared on Usenet in reference to Coil's The Snow EP. Another instance of the phrase appeared on Usenet in April 1993 in reference to The Black Dog's album Bytes.Wider public use of such terms on the Internet did not come until August 1993, when Alan Parry coined the term "intelligent dance music" and its initials were adopted in the name and charter of the IDM electronic mailing list.
A loaded term meant to distinguish electronic music of the '90s and later that's equally comfortable on the dancefloor as in the living room, IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) eventually acquired a good deal of negative publicity, not least among the legion of dance producers and fans whose exclusion from the community prompted the question of whether they produced stupid dance music.In a September 1997 interview, Aphex Twin commented on the 'Intelligent Dance Music' label:
I just think it's really funny to have terms like that. It's basically saying 'this is intelligent and everything else is stupid.' It's really nasty to everyone else's music. (laughs) It makes me laugh, things like that. I don't use names. I just say that I like something or I don't.Aphex Twin's Rephlex records official overarching genre name is Braindance, of which Dave Segal of Stylus Magazine asked whether it was a "snide dig at IDM’s mockworthy Intelligent Dance Music tag? British artist Mike Paradinas (µ-Ziq) has bluntly said:
No one uses or used it in UK. Only Americans ever used the term. It was invented by Alan Parry who set up the IDM mailing list.
Kid 606 has said,
I hate IDM and its elitist champions. It makes the music sound so much more than it actually is. It's a label invented by PR companies who need catchphrases. I like sounds, but hate what people attach to sounds.
Chris Jeffs (Cylob) said, "Also, anyone who applies the term IDM to my music deserves to be shot. Thaddeus Hermann of City Centre Offices has said
Nowadays, I do not like the sound of the term. Whenever someone mentions it, or uses it to describe their own music, I immediately become skeptical, expecting weak and boring tracks.”Matmos (Perfect Sound Forever) has said,
I belong to the weblist called "IDM" and occasionally enjoy the discussions there, because I like some of the artists who get lassoed into that category (not to mention that we, occasionally, are lumped into that category too), and because you can occasionally find out about interesting records on that list... Matmos is IDM if that only means "might be talked about on the IDM list"- but I don't endorse that term "intelligent dance music" because it's laughable. Rather Interesting Records had a nice slogan that kind of says it all: "Remember: Only Stupid People Call It "Intelligent".
A disparaging term used by dance-oriented critics in reference to I.D.M is "dolphin music".