St. Vincent DeJamz: 5-5-14

You’ve no doubt heard of EDM, that wonderful catchall acronym that has become synonymous with sex, drugs and subwoofers for several years now. While the news media has only recently latched onto the term and encased it in negativity, what you may not know is electronica purists have been distancing themselves from the term for some time now. Around the early ’90s, Usenet chatroom users coined the term IDM, or “Intelligent Dance Music,” to describe electronica that wasn’t entirely fit for pop consumption. Many have decried the pompousness of the moniker, but it still deserves attention. Here are some IDM tracks to know.

1. Aphex Twin – “Acrid Avid Jam Shred” – One of the artists most frequently associated with the IDM label is Richard D. James, who records under several aliases, the most well-known being Aphex Twin. James began making ambient electronic tracks when he was a teenager in the mid-’80s, and over the next two decades released a wide range of material, from spazzed-out acid house to solemn prepared piano compositions. This track is perhaps his most accessible, combining dub stylings with little electro-pop riffs thrown in. Ever the mysterious recluse, James hasn’t released any music under the Aphex Twin moniker in thirteen years, yet claims to be sitting on loads of unreleased material.

2. Boards of Canada – “Turquoise Hexagon Sun” – Labelmates of Aphex Twin (on the renown Warp Records imprint), Boards of Canada offer a distinctly more stoned vibe than much of the former’s catalogue, although theirs is more focused and bends less genre conventions. Consisting of two DJs of Scottish origin (despite their moniker), Boards of Canada are a mainstay of the IDM sound and are still going strong, having just released a new album last year.

3. Autechre – “Nil” – English electronic duo Autechre have been in the game for about as long as their peers Aphex and Boards of Canada have, and similarly create a wide array of electronica. This track, off their 1994 release “Amber,” sees them take a stab at clinical ambient droning, the kind that would be easy to fall asleep to were it not for the sharp snares and unpredictable beats.

4. Flying Lotus – “Do the Astral Plane” – Drawing more from hip-hop turntablism than other artists on this list, Flying Lotus bridges the gap between IDM, rap, jazz fusion and many other genres in his music. Like most of his songs, “Astral Plane” is as dense as a neutron star with lush samples and organic, slightly off-kilter rhythm. Even though the timing of the drums might be off, that doesn’t make his tunes any less danceable, and doesn’t mean FlyLo can’t put on a hell of a show (if you were at his concert at the Metro last year, you know what I’m talking about).

5. Four Tet – “Hands” – Kieran Hebden, known by his stage name Four Tet, strays slightly from the IDM archetype of wonky drum breaks and spastic synths. Much of his material, including “Hands,” features live instrument samples he splices together to create spectral soundscapes. With a wealth of recordings spanning more than a decade, Four Tet is an often overlooked artist who deserves serious recognition for his diverse work.

6. Burial – “Near Dark” – A child of the downtempo and garage electronica that London’s underground scene is famous for, Burial expertly moulds a haunting aura around his driving, lo-fi beats. Another one of those anonymous, spotlight-shunning types, Burial allegedly released material for seven years without anyone knowing his real name. Seems fitting for someone who creates some of the creepiest dance music you will ever hear.