Women of IDM: The Doubtful Guest

Let us be clear: this isn’t an exercise in tokenism. This article I’m researching could just as easily be about musicians from Eastern Europe or musicians with brown hair or any other arbitrary definition. In this case, it happened to be based on gender, and I’m just pulling out the tracks I happen to like. As it turns out, The Doubtful Guest – Libby Floyd to her friends – is a former opera singer from Chicago (now living in the UK), who makes acid music. She’s signed to Planet Mu. I haven’t listened to acid since 1988, so it was a strange and welcome experience to revisit this chapter of my aural history. This is pretty enjoyable stuff.



It’s likely that acid doesn’t fit the bill of IDM, but then, it’s pretty controversial to use that term anyway. I was thinking in terms of “music for listening” (as opposed to music purely for dancing, which tends to be less complex).

Wikipedia blurb on the term IDM to be cleaned up for this future article:

The term IDM is said to have originated in the United States in 1993 with the formation of the IDM list, an electronic mailing list originally chartered for the discussion of music by (but not limited to) a number of prominent English artists, especially those appearing on a 1992 Warp Records compilation called Artificial Intelligence.[7]

In November 1991, the phrase “intelligent techno” appeared on Usenet in reference to Coil‘s The Snow EP.[16] Another instance of the phrase appeared on Usenet in April 1993 in reference to The Black Dog’s album Bytes.[17] Wider public use of such terms on the Internet did not come until August 1993, when Alan Parry announced the existence of a new electronic mailing list for discussion of “intelligent” dance music: the Intelligent Dance Music list, or IDM List for short.[18][19]

The first message, sent on August 1, 1993, was entitled “Can Dumb People Enjoy IDM, Too?”.[20] A reply from the list server‘s system administrator, Brian Behlendorf, revealed that Parry originally wanted to create a list devoted to discussion of the music on the Rephlex label, but they decided together to expand its charter to include music similar to what was on Rephlex or that was in different genres but which had been made with similar approaches. They picked the word “intelligent” because it had already appeared on Artificial Intelligence and because it connoted being something beyond just music for dancing, while still being open to interpretation.[21]

Artists that appeared in the first discussions on the list included Autechre, Atom Heart, LFO, and Rephlex Records artists such as Aphex Twin, µ-ziq, and Luke Vibert; plus artists such as The Orb, Richard H. Kirk, and Future Sound of London, and even artists like System 7, William Orbit, Sabres of Paradise, Tycho, Orbital, Plastikman and Björk.

In a September 1997 interview, Aphex Twin commented on the ‘Intelligent Dance Music’ label:

I just think it’s really funny to have terms like that. It’s basically saying ‘this is intelligent and everything else is stupid.’ It’s really nasty to everyone else’s music. (laughs) It makes me laugh, things like that. I don’t use names. I just say that I like something or I don’t.[24]

Hmm. Looks like I’ll have to come up with a better title for my piece.


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