In 1992, Warp’s Artificial Intelligence compilation launched a movement of cerebral, Byzantine techno rooted in proggy concept albums by ’70s visionaries like Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd. Informed by the rawness of footwork, contemporary rap, and even indie rock, the work of California’s Tomu DJ extends IDM’s lineage by focusing its energies on emotional intelligence. Mostly recorded around the same time as her atmospheric 2021 album FEMINISTA and its more percussive follow-up, Half Moon Bay, Crazy Trip occupies a surprisingly straightforward middle ground of simple, intersecting loops and gentle drum programming. The synth patches and drum patterns she favors may be familiar to DJs and listeners tapped into club music’s international underground, yet the final product feels original. Where some artists with similar tastes may aim for transcendence, Tomu DJ zeroes in on grounding introspection.
Crazy Trip leads with its most traditionally arranged tracks: a pair of 120 bpm house cuts built around four-on-the-floor kicks. Despite their shared tempo, the two songs chart contrasting routes. On “Mewisc,” blocky, static drones resonate and overlap like singing bowls, forming a loop propelled less by melody than simple addition and subtraction. New elements are gradually revealed as silhouettes in the synth-pad fog: A bassline slips through like a nudging elbow, tamped down by soft kicks and claps. “Pretty Funny,” similarly constructed with basic modular parts, eschews this unfolding structure and instead creates an immersive space that persists for just over two minutes. The three-chord loop in the backdrop remains unaltered throughout, putting emphasis on the rhythmic interplay between chromatic tom drums and the syncopated snares and hats pulled into their orbit. Instead of following the linear structure of a typical house production, Tomu DJ is more interested in condensing an idea into its most emotive moments.
The EP’s most inventive offerings are those that allude to Tomu DJ’s formative years booking Teklife members like DJ Spinn and DJ Manny for college parties. “Band Man” filters the new-age-adjacent timbres of her more ambient work through the frenetic, mirrored lens of classic footwork, segmenting Rhodes chords into fragments to match an antsy kick pattern. Lightly edited, pitched-up breakbeats and steady claps hit with rudimentary charm, while rapid-fire hi-hats and atonal, groaning synth effects rush to fill the remaining space. The contrast between gritty repetition and more expressive decoration generates a comforting feeling of weightlessness, shifting the center of gravity in several directions until its focus lands amid a whirlwind of percussive debris.
“Bedroom DJ,” Crazy Trip’s best track, is an ambient reimagining of ghettotech motifs in which Brooklyn rapper Petty Getty turns DJ terms into double entendres over loose, cozy R&B instrumentation. Though this song also prominently features a dreamy chord progression, there’s a whole biome of strange harmonic interplay that lives beneath the surface. Sine waves slalom between the keys, taking short, strategic detours into dissonance or unexpectedly stuttering out of time, giving the song a loose, improvised feel.
Despite drawing from an array of regional scenes and subgenres, Tomu DJ’s self-taught production doesn’t quite fit the buzzy “post-genre” tag often applied to the new wave of club experimentalists. Instead, it re-interprets specific dance sounds from the perspective of the online enthusiast, piecing together a unique aesthetic that gives equal weight to the energy of the dancefloor and the mysteries of a hidden browser tab.