It’s a little unfair to say that the Bermuda-based (that’s right, Bermuda) duo H+ are only IDM and dubstep. Comprised of Nicola Swan on female vocals and Malcom Brian Swan on pretty much everything else, H+ have put out a full ten EPs in a little over a year. They have run the gamut of electronic genres, including but not limited to house, tropical house, glitch, trap, dubstep, ambient and experimental electronica. Some of these styles are melded together and some stand on their own. There is always a vein of IDM and experimental electronica in their music but their first full-length album, Hidden Dimensions, shows that they can fold in lots of dance floor style, weird, trippy synths and even a dollop of classical music into their work and it still appears seamless.
IDM, for EDMers who are unfamiliar with this term, simply stands for Intelligent Dance Music. It is a subsection of and complimentary to EDM and also completely different. IDM tends to allow for more experimentation and ambient sound design, as its beats tend to be more muted and there’s more negative space to fill. That said, it’s completely reasonable to fill said negative space with more hefty beats and glitched out bass, which is what H+ do in spades on Hidden Dimensions.
Case in point: the album’s title track seems like it is going to be a sparse, sort of tropical number with some intermittent glitches until the quite-heavy-for-IDM dubstep beat and grindy bass synths drop. It’s not heavy for EDM-style dubstep but it is dubstep and it’s definitely danceable. It’s also definitely an interesting mix and dances on a wonderful line between EDM and IDM. Another highlight is “Every Time,” which opens with a breathy female vocal and classical piano and pizzicato strings. Here the dubstep beat and bass music-inspired bass are even more pronounced and definitely of an EDM ilk. It also has a soundsystem-style backing bass pulse and drum and bass-inspired amen breaks. It may seem like all these elements would create an absolute mess, but nothing could be further from the truth. “Every Time” is delicate, gorgeous and heavy all at the same time. Bass music producers on the EDM side of things could take notes from this track.
Other beat structures built into Hidden Dimensions wander to the edges of EDM and IDM and back. “Planck Dimensions” has a slowed down, almost trip hoppy beat as does “Patterns,” while “Anomalies” is fully experimental, random-sounding and almost beatless. “Error In the Standard Model” pairs trap and dubstep with jazz of all things, while “Dimensiones Ocultas” does a similar number on trap and Latin music. “Parallel Universe,” the second-to-last track is the only definitively house track on the album, which is anther surprise from the duo, as their previous releases tended to be more house-heavy. The whole album is one big surprise, however, so why stop there?
IDM is dance music designed to make the listener stop and think, which may seem a bit counter-intuitive since how does one think while dancing? H+ solves that conundrum by bringing in recognizable EDM beat structures to pair with their weird, glitchy experiments so that audiences can do either or both. There’s a lot to think about on this album but also a lot to dance to so it’s really the best of both the IDM and EDM worlds.