Billboard (p.80) - "[With] 'Bonzai' and 'Klatshing!,' blistering electronic instrumentals that belong on any headlining DJ's festival set list."
Recording information: Disco Fries Studios; DUPER, Bergen, Norway; Shabby Road, Sherman Oaks; The Computer Hell Cabin III, Topanga; The Computer Hell Cabin, Amsterdam.
Having broken through back in 2002 with his remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation," Dutch producer Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, spent the next decade doing what DJs used to do -- that is, mixing the pop superstars, landing tracks in video games, and gaining a loyal following through his EDM albums, which go from electro to big beat as if dance music wasn't following a linear timeline. Strange thing was, DJ culture blew up big time while he was covering esoteric new wave hits (check his redo of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" for an aggro industrial explosion), and suddenly Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia were taking relentless electronic dance music out of the IT department and into the stadiums, frats, sororities, and malls and on to download cues. Good news, then, that this DJ -- who seems equal parts Fatboy Slim, KMFDM, and Oakenfold -- hasn't sold his soul to the bass drop or the post-trance gloss of the Swedish set, as Synthesized comes off like a time machine, speeding through electronic music's pre-dubstep past while giving all genres the JXL spin. Synth pop from the '80s gets a warm hug during the sweet "When Is Enough Not Enough" featuring Tears for Fears vocalist Curt Smith, while the opening chillout cut "Take Off on Molly's E" is a heavenly transmission from the planet Orb or Orbital. Blippy techno and old-school funk meet on the seriously struttin' "Off the Dancefloor" with Isis Salam playing the role of Grace Jones, then Datarock join for the crunching anthem "Gloria" as if the Dust Brothers and the Chemical Brothers were still on top. With Timothy Leary samples and a robotic bassline, "Leave Behind Your Ego" is the heyday of acid house with a 2012 punch, while the long-titled closer "The Art of Luxurious Intergalactic Time Travel" brings reminders of short-titled new age artists like Vangelis, Deuter, and Eno. For those who like their electronic music clearly defined, it's a hard sell, but Synthesized is an easy recommendation for those who appreciate Junkie's skill and/or any witty genre-jumping around dance-pop. ~ David Jeffries