‘It was a gateway for people to get into electronic music’: 30 years of Warp Records’ Artificial Intelligence | Music

In the white hot rave heat of 1992, Warp Records, then based in Sheffield, released a compilation for the wind-down: Artificial Intelligence. The name would, sadly, prompt talk of “intelligent techno” and then “intelligent dance music” (IDM), implying an air of nerdy elitism. However Warp insisted the title was only ever a tongue-in-cheek alignment with sci-fi, and the balmy music was unmistakably hedonistic. Taking cues from Detroit techno, and featuring future superstars in Autechre and Aphex Twin (as the Dice Man), it perfectly captured the still-ecstatic backroom and after-party vibe of the era.

As a new reissue celebrates the compilation’s 30th anniversary – and three decades of its pleasure principle reverberating across subsequent scenes and generations – we asked famous fans from 1992 to the present about why Artificial Intelligence endures.

Róisín Murphy.
Róisín Murphy. Photograph: Pedro Gomes/Redferns

I was used to the idea of electronic music for listening at home as I’d hammered the KLF’s Chill Out long before I’d arrived in Sheffield – but this was different. There was nothing remotely hippy or retro about it. The image on the cover, by the brilliant Phil Wolstenholme, says it all: it just was future. Alone, but together with, and connected to, technology. I would often visit Phil at his home and he was always on that bloody computer of his, he had to be the most patient man in Sheffield – he doesn’t get enough credit for his vision.

I only discovered these compilations a couple of years ago. I’d never identified with IDM at all, it’s too culture-less of a notion. But this zone of electronica built for home listening, which pulls from real club cultures like hip-hop and house, while making space for abstract exploration – that, I care about a great deal. It can be a beautiful area, even though it’s a diffuse non-genre, so hasn’t much of a cultural core. It sounds and feels like suburbia in that sense.

The Dice Man: Polygon Window – video

Lila Tirando a Violeta

When I was a teenager a friend said Fill 3 by Speedy J on this compilation reminded them of the sort of music I was trying to make. They were right! On first listen I was inspired: it felt timeless, really carefully crafted and still impactful. I was astonished to learn that the album came out just before I was born – I’d have believed it was a new release. It’s been a huge influence on producers’ not being locked in club or ambient genres – its biggest strength was in revealing there were cracks in between.

The Blessed Madonna.
The Blessed Madonna. Photograph: Eva Pentel/PR

Some records arrive by way of serendipity, at the cosmic moment when all the tumblers in your brain click and some music from another galaxy beams into you and upgrades your operating system. In 1992, I was looking for a world that I believed existed but had not yet set foot upon: that’s when this album arrived for me. Every part of it was affecting, but none so much as Dr Alex Paterson AKA the Orb’s contribution of Loving You performed live. All these years later, I am no less moved or filled with hope when I hear that cut. Nothing sounds more like an acid-drenched sunrise from a time before the world was ending. Its persistence is a comfort to me.

JD Twitch

Autechre: Crystel – video

I was a big fan, but it was also a gateway for a lot of people who perhaps didn’t get the “rave” thing to get into electronic music and clubbing. I have friends who got into the scene via this album. Of course, a lot of the music on Artificial Intelligence was straight up club music rather than any kind of armchair listening: Up!’s Spiritual High is a total banger while the Speedy J track was a low-tempo club anthem. It can’t be ignored that it is a very white take on Detroit techno inspiration, though. I and many friends loathed the idea of one form of techno could being more “intelligent”, too. “Stupid Techno” then became a badge of honour for us – I think we even used that term on a flyer or two.

Mor Elian

My early musical education was my older sister’s CD collection, which I stole from many times – I found this there years after its release. Similar to Aphex Twin’s first album, I find it deeply moving, still forward-thinking and relevant. Unfortunately, it is mostly impossible to play in most club environments these days – it’s more suitable for deep listening, lying on your back with a huge spliff in your hand … or maybe when you are dancing at dawn at the after-hours. It’s music that makes me feel painfully nostalgic, like a deep longing – but also incredibly motivated to get in the studio and make music.

I was at Leeds College of Art in 92 and really just started being properly music obsessed. I’d already followed music from hip-hop through Detroit techno and all points in between, but all of that had to be hunted down on import; Warp managed to draw a narrative out of the UK’s answer to all of that. The fact that it had a manifesto, that bold artwork, the incredible albums that followed by Kenny Larkin, Fuse, Black Dog – it was irresistible. It made me throw everything into getting cheap equipment and making music 24/7 and I haven’t looked back.

This article was amended on 14 December 2022. In a previous version, the main image showed Mike Paradinas but was incorrectly captioned as showing Autechre. Also, Aphex Twin’s alias on the compilation is the Dice Man, not Polygon Window, which is the track title.