Who here was heavily influenced by Junkie XL in their early electronic music days? I certainly was, and that nostalgia led to excitement when I heard about his latest project, Synthesized. I expected more ambient, trip-hop inspired beats – perhaps a few less abstract singles and a spacey, high-energy anthem.
Imagine my surprise when I heard the first single, ‘Gloria’. This is anything but ambient – Datarock teams up with XL to deliver a hugely rock influenced club track, more electro than anything else. It’s a hugely powerful track and most certainly fitting of the label of anthem, but it is certainly not the Junkie XL I was familiarized with in my early years. This might be because of the specific tunes I’ve heard from him or because of my now slightly more seasoned tastes, but the question remains – is this a good or a bad thing? I say neither. While I am a huge fan of his original sound, I cannot morally object to an artist exploring new ground. Who are we to demand his old sound? While the old sound may be the sound we fell in love with, we as listeners must support unique creative expression to help set a standard for all electronic music producers to push themselves. That being said, this is objectively a great track. The powerful chords, huge vocals and tight arrangement all make for a very enjoyable listen with an equally enjoyable pair of videos.
The rest of the album definitely draws on this rock influence, however, we see a very heavy ’80s synth pop influence. This, while maybe sounding not the most interesting, actually works quite well. A number of the tracks on the album are incredibly innovative in terms of their juxtaposition of styles – it’s almost, not quite, but almost like a re-imagined, more in depth version of Justice’s Audio, Video, Disco. It’s really very unique, and if nothing else a refreshing change from the norm. As long as you don’t go in expecting something like ‘Mushroom’, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the change of pace.
P.S: On second thought, one can definitely hear the rock influences present in Synthesized in the bassline and drums of ‘Mushroom’. It’s a more subtle, but important, connection.
P.P.S: Every time I listen to this, I change my perspective on it a bit. Synthesized definitely deserves multiple listens – it is an incredibly interesting album. ‘Take Off On Molly’s E’ might be one of the best album openings in awhile!