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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

IDM after IDM (MP3)

Dance music that makes you want to stand still and pay attention — that’s what’s at the heart of so-called IDM, or intelligent dance music. It’s music with a groove, with a beat — it’s music that employs all manner of club mannerisms, but does so with an emphasis on detail that rewards headphones more than it does dance floors. Those ticker-tape beats. Those whirling background synthesizers. Those whisps of vocals that are more sound than meaning. Those found sonic objects, tossed in as much variety as for anything else. And those broken rhythms, the ones that both exalt the whole idea of rhythm by pushing it to an extreme, and that also almost mock the idea of rhythm’s presumed equation with dance.

Of course, humans are always up for a challenge, and so in the 15-plus years since IDM began to arise — or at least since those sorts of music began to be termed IDM — other musics with even more complex (i.e., dance-challenging) beats have come, and many of them have been, in fact, embraced by clubs. Dubstep in particular comes to mind, with its sudden fissures, its subliminal bass lines, its chaotic frenzies.

And thus, IDM has become a kind of background music, its challenges now a comfort. Such is the music of the Sales Department, whose latest on the Test Tube netlabel, A Practical Guide, is as plain-faced as its name — and just as dependable. The five tracks are estimable runs through familiar methods, and at their best they reinvigorate those sounds and modes. Take, for example, “Misc 46” (MP3), which has a heavy, dub-influenced beat, an X-Files-worthy melodic fragment, and little more. Throughout, both elements get worked over, the beat taken apart and put together in a variety of configurations, and the synth tone moving in and out of focus. It’s quite repeat-listenable.

[audio:|titles=”Misc 46″|artists=The Sales Department]

Get the full release at More on Sales Department (aka Toronto, Ontario-based MD Matheson) at and

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , , / Comments: 3 ]


  1. test tube
    [ Posted September 23, 2009, at 3:19 pm ]

    Marc, I couldn’t have put it better. Thanks again for keeping the tube alive.



  2. melodic electronica
    [ Posted February 15, 2011, at 7:46 am ]

    can you actually have such a thing as downtempo idm? idm is such a misnomer imo.

    • Alan Lockett
      [ Posted February 15, 2011, at 10:50 am ]

      I might agree that the term ‘IDM’ is a misnomer, especially when related to its three-word origins. However, treated as a simple signifier in itself (i.e. IDM rather than I.D.M.), I’d argue, functionally speaking, it does its job as a loose sub-genre classifier. It can then be further sub-classified. So, ‘downtempo IDM’ points to a couple of things: first, it succeeds in distinguishing a certain broad orientation within beat-driven electronica (IDM); second, it further delimits it, i.e. by differentiating it (downtempo) from what it is not, viz. towards the other end of a spectrum from ‘mentalist/speedcore/hyperactive’ IDM.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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