Junkie XL is the alias of Dutch multi-instrumentalist / producer / remixer / composer / engineer / general musical god Tom Holkenborg. His illustrious career as a producer has led him to Synthesized, his sixth full-length release and first since 2008′s Booming Back at You, though he’s been plenty busy with film work as of late. Given my high opinion of Holkenborg, some pretty lofty expectations were placed on this album from the get-go.
Those expectations were thoroughly throttled. Synthesized opens with the sublimely mellow introductory track, “Take Off On Molly’s E,” which is faintly similar to the remix work I’m most familiar with from Junkie XL. “Synthesized” is a club-shaking banger to be sure, yet it possesses a certain depth that distinguishes it from the standard, prosaic crowd-pleasers. Then there’s “Twilight Trippin,” which begins with muted eerieness before diving into a heart-stopping mishmash of bass and beats at the one-minute mark. “Bonzai” hits a certain sweet spot with me for being decidedly melodic and flawlessly layered.
There’s a fair amount of collaborative work on Synthesized to boot. The quirky-yet-danceable “Off The Dancefloor” is brought to life with sassy vocals from Thunderheist’s Isis Salam. Tears for Fears frontman Curt Smith lends his voice to the sumptuously rich “When Is Enough Not Enough,” and then, of course, there’s “Gloria,” a collaboration with one of my favorite bands, Datarock, with seriously catchy, ’80s anthem rock undertones.
The only perceptible misstep for me on the entire album was “Klatshing!” It begins repetitively and lulls you into complacency before launching you into a jarring and grossly misplaced rock interlude, which leads straight back into the repetition that preceded it. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a fan. Still, one flaw is easily forgivable in the grander scheme of things. The album as whole shows remarkable range and depth, and I would expect no less from Junkie XL. Synthesized is undoubtedly one of my favorite releases of 2012.
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