Intelligent dance music (IDM) is electronic music more suited for home listening than nightclub dance floors. Intelligent Dance Music first appeared in the early 1990s. IDM embraces a cold, distant, digital aesthetic and extensively borrows from the sounds of the ambient electronica, techno, electro-pop, and Chicago house music genres. IDM’s parent genre is known as electronic dance music or EDM since, before IDM, the majority of electronic music was composed with the dance floor in mind. However, creative dance music compositions frequently place less emphasis on danceability and more on auditory aesthetics.

How IDM Began

IDM, which began in 1980s rave culture, developed into a separate genre by the 1990s. It is a direct musical descendant of electronic music that established raves in the 1980s. Acid house, Chicago house, and Detroit techno influenced the pulsating rhythms and computerized soundscapes of 1990s electronica. Introducing new artists and innovative marketing strategies made IDM stand out from other genres.

IDM, or “intelligent dance music,” probably started as a marketing phrase. The musicians featured on Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence collection were the focus of the IDM List. The IDM list is a mailing list from the early 1990s. Autechre and Speedy J were among the performers on the album. Later, more electronica musicians and labels joined the email list. These include Toytronic, Planet Mu, Isophlux, Schematic, Merck, Skam, Musik Aus Strom, and Aphex Twin & Plaid.

The term “intelligent techno” first surfaced on Usenet in November 1991 concerning The Snow EP by Coil. The tracks The Future Sound of London and Jam & Spoon Tales from a Danceographic Ocean had the exact phrase first, surfacing off the Internet in the U.S. and U.K. music press in late 1992.
Additionally, Ben Willmott replaced techno with dance music in his review of NME, an ethno-dance compilation in July 1993, noting that “…current ‘intelligent’ dance music owes much more to Eastern mantra-like repetition and neo-ambient instrumentation than the disco era which preceded the advent of acid and techno.”

 How This Genre Lost Its Initial Appeal

When Alan Parry announced the creation of a new electronic mailing list for discussing “intelligent” dance music (Intelligent Dance Music List or IDM List), the general public began to use these phrases more often on the Internet. The word “intelligent dance music” was met with resistance from listeners and performers later on. The term “intelligent” suggested a level of musical intelligence that looked dubious or arrogant, even if the nuanced music was more likely to reward attentive listening than a pulsating Chicago dance tune. As a result, by the end of the 1990s, the word had lost its appeal; even if textured, ambient electronic music was still being made.


Instead of focusing on energetic beats that compel partygoers to hit the dance floor, IDM frequently emphasizes ambient soundscapes. Some types of electronic music strongly include hip-hop and funk samples. Although some of these sounds feature in IDM, the genre frequently emphasizes a calmer feeling. Venetian Snares, an IDM artist, eventually contributed to developing the breakbeat genre, which used vintage jazz and funk samples.

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