IDM on eMusic

This is probably my favorite kind of electronic music, and while eMusic is no longer the embarrassment of riches it once was in any section, I think IDM is still faring relatively well.  The number of remaining labels may not be high, but their quality still is, IMO.  Since there might be some overlap with the downtempo stuff, I’ll try listing concurrently.  I go back and forth on whether I miss Warp or Ninja Tune more, and if labels ever start returning, both would be tops on my list for longshot hopes (with Planet Mu and Rephlex not far behind, at least for IDM if not the whole site).

Did Aphex Twin and Plaid (The Black Dog) invent this, or did they just get lumped together into it by listeners?

The tempo might well be fast on a lot of these, but there’s usually just too much going on, including elements of noise or otherwise dissonance, in this style for one actually to shake a leg.  Most often, the subtleties are best appreciated with a pair of headphones, and while I prefer a catchy melody, it’s by no means guaranteed in the glitchier stuff.  Abrasiveness is decidedly not a bad thing, at least not in small doses.

When the tempo’s slower, or at least not fast, a stricter adherence to electronic strictures (few or no organic instruments, as with someone like Solenoid) might keep something as IDM rather than downtempo/chillout, methinks.  IDM should also be at least a little experimental, whereas mellower electronica in downtempo/chillout is decidedly against rocking anyone’s boat.  

I’d also include artists here like Metamatics, B12 (both still on the site), Beige, and While (both not), which actively cultivate a sound that one not interested in subtleties might call boring, though in a very different (and much better IMO) way than oonce techno built around a generic 4/4 beat.  The very idea of dancing to any of those is pretty intriguing, and a hip-hop MC trying to be edgy might well try to rap over much of it, but both of those rather miss the point, I think.  

Correct me if I’m wrong about any of this, and I’d love to discuss finer points of description in addition to specific examples. 

The abundance of titles just listed under “Electronic/Electronica” makes sorting a very difficult but necessary task.  I think broken beat belongs here.  I’m a bit torn about whether to include “drill & bass” in here or wait to group it with drum & bass/jungle later.  I think Datach’i and the stable of Zod Records would fit better here, but I’m less sure about something like Spongebob Squarewave (whose label Off Me Nut is the only one still on the site and maybe less intelligent than I initially thought).

Labels I recommend (probably not exclusively IDM):    Bastard Boogie Tunes/Союз Мьюзик; Civil Music; Collective Resonance; Igloo Pop; Minority Records s.r.o.; Moller; Off Me Nut; Skam; 030303; 

OK labels with at least a few titles worth trying:  Agatone; Ambidextrous; Dement3d; dingn\dents; Eves; EXABYTE; Geometrik; Golden Mist; Hydrogen Dukebox; ID Spectral; Intellegenix; Maeg Music; More Than Human; Nice & Nasty; Not Applicable; What Now Becomes; Xtraplex;  

When IDM gets “bad,” I have a hard time distinguishing it from generic techno.  Unlike general techno, I can at least name a few IDM artists I just don’t really like or find overrated, such as Ekoplekz, Nuearz, Disjecta,   See the techno labels in the lower third of my label list for examples, and feel free to tell me where the intelligence has eluded me.

Going back to origins, it’s also my impression that high quality techno of the early 1990s was also just retroactively called IDM after the distinction came into focus.

I’d be interested not only in suggestions for labels I’ve missed and correction of my mistaken beliefs but also what everyone’s all time IDM favorites are.

Ten fine IDM albums 

1. “Inflatable Hope” - Cylob (2015).  Always nice to find Rephlex stalwarts branching out onto other labels that are still on eMusic (see also Global Goon), and at 99 cents this is great value for very stark but not overly aggressive IDM.  Quite like the 1990s never ended. 

2. “Mega City Industry” - iTal tEK (2014).  Before or while breaking out on Planet Mu (“Hollowed” is one of my favorites from the last decade), I’m grateful for this and another EP on Civil Music to soften the loss. 

3. “Flight” - Haav (2019).   Ice cold and dark 99-cent EP also dabbles in illbient and plays with water a lot.  A lower temperature in sound than even title #10, though overall not quite as interesting.  Only a few tracks have any beat at all, and even then there are stretches without to give listeners the shivers.

4. “Pequeños Ejercicios De Supremacía Abstracta” - Prototipo (2017).  Over the course of trying to find all the labels with significant catalogs remaining, whenever something popped up that’s not in English in a genre like IDM I already love, I get inordinately excited.  Their 99-cent EP is fine, too, but this really gives them space to experiment and make one ponder what a Latin artist can offer the subgenre.  

5. “Not a Number” - Quadratschulz (2019).  Clearly and deeply derivative of The Black Dog’s very early and most recent albums, but on a list like this that’s not a bad thing.  On the dancier side of retro and could use some variation in the beat, but for a half an hour of brand new IDM at 99 cents, I can’t ask for more.  The closing track is a pretty kooky Kraftwerk riff.

6. “Cinemetry” - Benighter (2017).  With a still overwhelming number of labels to sort through, I rarely bother with “independent” bands and artists self-releasing material by themselves, but this one did enough to catch my eye and then ears in sampling.  A bit like Felix Laband in the way disparate loops are assembled seemingly at random, if less catchily.  There’s enough variety and manipulation to keep things interesting, in any case.

7. “Phreatic Surface” - Metome (2013).  Vocals chopped to incomprehensible bits, washes of broad synths, and a dancier beat than most here combine for a fine 99-cent EP.  Snare rushes and a general feeling of being wound up tightly and then unfurling abound.

8. “Vapor Wet” - Duanger (2017).  Similar to #7 for incorporating moans and vocals to fit its suggestive album art, this one’s shorter and apparently from Taiwan, with obviously Chinese elements like traditional percussion, but otherwise it could be the other half of a split LP.

9. “Lax” - Lackluster (2019).  I prefer the albums from the turn of the century, but this is still a worthwhile addition to the discography, and anything new on the site needs to be highlighted.  Neither as melodious as previous works nor especially harsh, differences between tracks on this short release still sound like an artist being unsure what paths to pursue, but it’s more clearly IDM than 2014’s “Moments,” which illustrates the difference between IDM and downtempo electronica within the same artist’s output.

10. “Totally Cold” - Oscify (2018).  Possibly the official DJ for the hip-hop on the Are You Serious label, this fully instrumental album is an amazing bargain at 99 cents and showcases chopped up sounds and beats associated with the bigger names in glitchy electronica.  There’s melody to spare among the brokenness, including an interesting experiment on “Web Wobble Womp Womp” to use guitars as the foundation for a whole lot of knob twiddling.  The best news for those who like this one is that there’s 20+ more Oscify titles to choose from.

This list was fairly accessible, but there’s also a wealth of more experimental (read:  dissonant, noisy, tuneless or devoid of melody) stuff still on the site, some of it labeled as IDM.  I’ll get to it in a future list.

On other lists but still fine and on the site:  “Plastic Orchestra” - Global Goon (2012); “Utrecht” - EOD (2010); “Hate in My Heart” - Dntel (2018); “Yokai” - Breek (2018); “Wandering” - Yosi Horikawa (2012); “Blue Sky On Mars” - Jonny Faith (2011); “Parergon” - Will Dutta with Plaid (2012).  One Luke Vibert EP still remains, but I haven’t heard it yet.

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