You’ve heard Tom Holkenborg’s music, you just don’t know it. Or maybe you do.
Holkenberg has gone from industrial rock in Nerve in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, to the moniker Junkie XL, hanging in Hollywood and scoring for films (Team America…fuck ya!), video games (Destroy All Humans…a bird flu video game already?), and commercials.
One such commercial threw him into the mainstream, when Nike World Cup 2002 utilized his services. The result was the remix of Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation,” where it is rumored that said advertiser asked said producer to please drop the Junkie, resulting in a JXL in the credits. After taking that track to No. 1 in 24 countries, he may have been okay with abbreviating his name a bit, but he didn’t pigeonhole himself into a remix corner.
When it came to his own Junkie releases, Holkenberg broke away from the electronic norm with Saturday Teenage Kick in 1997, countering redundancy with adrenaline pumping rock riffs intertwined with the knob twists and samples, which was followed by Big Sounds of the Drags, flaring big mashups before there was such a term. Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell boasted 28 tracks, and like the title, seemed to rely more heavily on the traditional electronic formulas, but still contained Holkenberg’s unique bent as in the crackin’ track “Future in Computer Hell.”
After moving from Amsterdam to Venice Beach, and with a few more years and air miles under his belt, the programmer/musician has arrived with Today. Still containing many heavy and chunky dance vibes, the over feel is more organic. “Drift Away,” “Honey” and “Such A Tease” feel as if the ocean’s mist made its way into his musical machine and the confines of the studio in Amsterdam have transformed into a more magical space on the beach.
Spotlighting the title track, a lone guitar rhythm crashes into metal walled pulsations as Nathan Mader’s vocals emote a Simon Lebon reach-to-the-sky energy, with an underlying keyboard line reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s Violator. Still hooked to the cables is the get-down-and-breakbeat numbers, “I Have Got A Xerox to Copy” and “Mushroom,” where the latter takes on a tad of the BT use of echoed beats, but with the signature layering that is so Junkie XL—precise and captivating.
Holkenberg has said the results of Today are the makings of all his travels and years of experience. If this is the case, it is a journey that is worth repetitive listens today, tomorrow and for years to come.