Fresh Kicks 211: Pizza Hotline

Pizza Hotline’s 2022 album ‘Level Select’ is a joy to explore. Built from the kind of jungle/drum & bass beats that might once have earned the (now generally derided) “intelligent” tag, but are much better served by adjectives such as ambient or atmospheric, it’s full of bright melodies and easy-rolling breaks. The title track glows with a fizzy neon ambience, while on ‘Emotion Engine’, glassy chimes shine like morning dew, and ‘Glacier Zone’ delivers an appropriately icy sparkle. Even the more epic moments, such as the meeting of a chunky Amen and shimmering operatic vocal on ‘Shadow Moses’, feel airy and unburdened. It’s also a viral success, having racked up over 1.5 million plays on YouTube to date, yet Pizza Hotline (real name: Harvey Jones) is virtually unknown within jungle/d&b circles, and aside from a set at Glastonbury this year, you’re unlikely to catch him playing out much at the moment.

See, Jones came to his current sound via a roundabout route. Though he did start out DJing drum & bass a decade ago, and does count albums like LTJ Bukem’s ‘Logical Progression’ and ‘Progression Sessions’ as influences, his main inspiration has been the playful, low-bitrate music of ‘90s video games — in particular Soichi Terada’s d&b-adjacent Ape Escape soundtrack. After his initial junglist forays, he fell in love with dub techno at Freerotation festival, eventually releasing his own under the alias El Choop; he played this year's edition of that very festival under the same moniker just last week. Alongside this, while studying music at university in 2018, he and a friend found out about the chronically online, nostalgia-obsessed genre, vaporwave, and began to mess around making tracks with an old tape deck — slowing down elements and resampling them to form crusty, emotive textures.

“I just loved the way that it wasn’t held up by pristine production values. It’s almost the opposite,” he says of the style. They jokingly named the project Pizza Hotline, and it eventually became an outlet for Jones’ non-dub techno projects, like the fuzzy soundscapes of his 2018 ‘deals with a western oil conglomerate’ EP, or the thump and crackle of 2020’s ‘Pressing Business’, which was him “trying to make a sludgy, deep, minimal Chicago [house] sound”. Going down a wormhole of retro game music on YouTube eventually led him back to drum & bass, but the connective tissue throughout his work is minimalism. “When you’re doing a great amount with few elements is something that’s always really motivated me,” he says.