TOMMY PIXELS revels in chaos on his refreshing debut ‘TOMMY+ EP’
Throughout NYC-based artist TOMMY PIXELS’ deliciously named inaugural DJ set “MEAT MIX,” there are moments that just click. Here you’ll find Alice Deejay’s familiar early-Internet hit “Better Off Alone” intersecting with Drake’s recent dance-move inventing “Toosie Slide” and unexpectedly forming sparks. Ariana Grande and Dido rub elbows on titular twins “thank you, next” x “Thank You,” seamlessly melding within your mind to create an inescapable earworm. The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is chopped up, flayed, and skewered, allowing PIXELS to give us a modern take on a classic that we’ve all heard before. The songs on “MEAT MIX” not only make for a great summary of pop music from the last 20-something years, but it also offers us a glimpse into the mind of a pop anarchist’s playbook. Familiar songs are made unfamiliar. Twists and turns lead the mix to unpredictable places. PIXELS actually turns Justin Beiber’s “Yummy” into a song I would want to listen to. “MEAT MIX” is therefore a very successful exercise in creating a charcuterie of omnipresent choice pop cuts that manage to sound fresh and exciting–despite the fact that they’re all already well-known.
But perhaps what “MEAT MIX” does even better is showcasing the three songs that are obviously not part of the established pop canon (the true “meat” in the mix, if you will). The songs on TOMMY PIXELS’ debut EP, TOMMY+, are interspersed throughout the set, somehow managing to accomplish the difficult task of outshining the pop songs that they’re juxtaposed against. As it turns out, PIXELS’ own bizarre creations pack a meaty punch. Filled with warped clashing and discordant fervor, the two minute songs on TOMMY+ offer a skewed take on what pop means to the artist in its own bizarre ways.
Here, pop music borrows the sounds of the LA and Brooklyn underground club scenes where PIXELS spent a lot of his time developing his musical style. That much is quite clear–layers upon layers of hearty, noisy samples reminiscent of tightly packed spaces form the building blocks of the EP’s dizzying, pitch-shifting atmosphere. Rumbling, deep sludgy house music permeates EP opener “SUCCESSFUL + RELATIONSHIP,” throwing you headfirst into a universe that immediately feels steamy and deliberately controlled. “OUTSIDE” samples breaking glass and digitally manipulated blips, creating a frantic, choked atmosphere that slams you with urgency. EP closer “HOME+VIDEO,” the only song with something resembling words that you can latch onto, plays off of a heated siren loop that doesn’t let up until the last second. It’s fitting that the one discernible line that can be made out is, “I don’t remember much, but I remember you”–a self-aware warble that sums up the catchy messiness of TOMMY+ perfectly.
At only six minutes, TOMMY+ is short enough to give us a taste of what PIXELS is all about… without completely overwhelming its listeners. Contained chaotic catharsis, even in small doses, can be a wild trip. Even as I sit here replaying TOMMY+ for the hundredth time, there’s something new that I can make out from the layers of sound–a murmur here that somehow slipped under the radar, a warbly groan there that forms the peripheral backbone of headbanging moments. The incessant whirring that suggests that there is always something more. There’s just so much going on within such a short time-frame.
Whether it’s being played on its own or contextualized as part of a longer mix, the strident songs of TOMMY+ just come alive.
Additional production and engineering on TOMMY+ was done by Matt West and Bryce Barsten.
Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!