A Brief History of Early UK IDM

In 1992 Warp Records, one of the most important electronic labels in the UK at the time, released ‘Artificial Intelligence‘, a compilation of artists closely affiliated with the label. The likes of Autechre, Aphex Twin, The Orb and B12 featured; all “pioneers” of the term “IDM” or “Intelligent Dance Music”. From the outset, the term, coined around the same time through an electronic mailing list, was reviled by many artists, including the aforementioned Warp Records affiliates, because of it’s use of the word “intelligent”. But although it raises more questions than it resolves, the term has stuck over time.

Characterised by its emotional quality and introspective nature, it soon evolved to include rhythmic experimentation, finding its way on to more dance floors than its first iteration, which was widely signposted as music for home listening.

Although this hey day for early UK IDM came slightly before his time, Leeds-based DJ and producer 96 Back became hooked on this captivating strain of dance music, its emotional sentiment and depth of technicality striking a chord with the Leeds-based producer. Here the CPU signee charts the tracks that have stuck out for him and have influences his approach to production…

Where does your love for early UK IDM stem from?

I think I’ve always been quite fascinated by the records I’ve heard that really tried to push the box technically whilst still staying thoroughly rooted in the core sentiments of what dance music and specifically electro have always been about. There’s something inherently captivating to me about a track that establishes it’s main goal in thinking outside of the box, yet still manages to remain quintessentially dance floor orientated in function, almost a testament to the depth of experimentation within functional dance music.

What marks out an early UK IDM record, compared to the rest of the genre?

That’s a really hard thing to pin down I think, you can really tell when a track from that sphere really doesn’t hit the mark as soon as it becomes technical flexing over any resonating moods/emotional tones that remain so key to the tracks. For me a track really works when it toes that line and contextually feels like it knows where it stands in relation to its influences.

What early UK IDM record has left the biggest impression on you as a DJ, and why?

Honestly, it’s a total cliche, but one of the strongest memories I have is the first time I heard Autechre’s “Eutow” in a club. It’s such a strong and epic, shameless track in it’s emotions and as soon as I heard the first pitch shift in the bass line I just remember thinking “What the fuck”, it’s such a brilliantly simplistic tune yet it managed to completely blow my mind.

96 Back plays No Bounds Festival (11th-13th Oct)

Clark – Kin Griff [Warp Records]

This tune is everything I want from an introspective and thoughtful tune that can also completely devastate a dance floor!! I guess this was at the time Berlin techno got very tool-y and you had all the nu-skool breaks/blog house popping up as a bit of a retaliation to that in the UK. This feels like such an apt response to both of those things, the switch up on the baseline half way through still makes me catch my breath every time I hear it.

Oscar Mulero – Green Fades To Grey

Whilst I’ve always been a huge fan of Mulero this track is by far my favourite thing he’s ever done and that’s really saying something. The whole track is a complete masterclass in texture, sound design and brilliantly thought out placement and composition. Most importantly, for me, is the way in which it so fluidly moves from being a completely rinse out percussion workout into something so tender, moving and undoubtedly gentle.

MNLTH – Airbrite

This just screams peak Rephlex to me, the way Dave Monolith sets down such a concrete, infectious and unique bass line, and just lets all these melodic embellishments gradually begin to sputter there way in, setting their own narrative in conjunction with the rest of the track. This track just remains as proof to me that no matter how many variations and precise “bits” you add to a track, if you don’t have solid emotional grounding to begin with then there’ll be just no substance.

Cane – Gentle

In every sense this track is a complete techno/electro workout. It’s got every component you would expect of it, a scratchy acid line, a load of toms and a hyper sharp snare, yet it’s always felt like more than that to me. It’s pull lies in it’s deceptive simplicity, beats constantly tripping over each other and a brilliant restrained sense of sound design renders it so effective, interesting and a real wormhole.

D’Arcangelo – Pull Seven

I was tempted to go for one of D’Arcangelo’s earlier tracks which are all as equally as amazing, but something about the way the tone is set so confidently and instantly is something that always catches me off guard in the best way possible. Essentially, there’s no mucking about with this tune, it knows exactly how its going to lure you in and it does each and every time.

96 Back plays No Bounds Festival (11th-13th Oct)

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