Making Beats Like We’re Bringing ’88 Back
Think back to the first time you’ve heard a Junkie XL song – even if that time is today. Most people have no idea that this rave-tastic, psychoactive saturated, rump-moving music is made by a single 44 year-old Dutchman, Tom Holkenborg. Known better as JXL, this multi-instrumentalist has been producing music his entire life. The next installment in the JXL library is his 6th studio album, Synthesized, a 12 track joyride which accurately demonstrates why Junkie XL is a household name in the rave underground.
What else would one expect from a new JXL album other than their intro track to be titled, “Take Off On Molly’s E”. The slow build of static electronics mimics the countdown before a space shuttle launch. Anticipation suddenly cuts through the silence and a disconnected voice signals the crescendo. Go time!
A quick disclaimer on the dangers of rock ‘n’ roll by Eddie Cochran signals the start of a funky chiptune-esque song, “Off the Dancefloor,” which is sung soulfully by Isis Islam. One of the more playful tracks on the record is “Leave Behind Your Ego,” which credits Timothy Leary as one of its contributors. An apt contrast to the revving synths in the background, Leary’s calm and soothing voice instructs the listener through “a journey out of your mind and into transcendent awareness, leaving behind your ego,” where “the goal is ecstasy.”
The title track comes on hard and fast with grinding synths and fat bass cuts before giving way to the epic, symphonic chorus, “Your love for me is synthesized / what lies beneath those angel eyes.” DATAROCK’s Rocksteady Freddie reminisces about lost lust on “Gloria,” a song which may annoy listeners at first, however, the toe-tapping melody, zany lyrics, and pop sensibility will have you singing along before you know it.
Never one to disappoint with the addition of clever, funny, or interesting between song banter, “Klatshing!” starts with the facetious warning, “They may be hippies today, but tomorrow they may be junkies.” The fast and furious dance track combines old school EDM sounds reminiscent of Daft Punk, with new school glitch/fidget breaks akin to Skrillex, to keep feet two-stepping all the way until the bass (guitar) breakdown.
Just as the intro track launched listeners off into a distant world of booty shaking electronic, “The Art of Luxurious Intergalactic Time Travel” properly winds things down with warming and welcoming decompression, chugging along for nearly 8 minutes with indistinct vocoding and noises from the ether. A fitting return to mind and body.
Long time fans and discerning listeners in general will find Synthesized of great interest – the unique progression of loops, drums, samples, and many more sounds take on distinct flavors of their own with every 4 bars. Synthesized has a lucid retro veneer – the ’80s darkwave and disco vibes are pronounced – and yet there is enough variety here to please even the JXL purists while Holkenborg still finds room to experiment with new styles. While not necessarily the epitome of JXL records, if you enjoy EDM, this should be in your possession.