Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Power of Big Slacks

What's made JUNKIE XL one of Europe's premiere Techno outfits is their seamless abililty to create Dance music with a Rock feel. Unlike some Electronic acts who add little scraps of guitar or Rock bands who incorporate simple samples, Amsterdam's JUNKIE XL, with their phat beats, Hip Hop flow and monster riffage, not only blur the lines of live music and samples - they've literally set the standard for all to follow.

JUNKIE XL's powerful debut album, 1997's SATURDAY TEENAGE KICK, garnered rave reviews from the likes of SPIN (U.S.) , DETAILS (U.S.) , SPEX (Germany), MUZIK (U.K.): "S.T.K. isn't an underground album, it's pop, but you won't be able to ignore it because this lot are going to be huge" and more and successful tours with THE PRODIGY, GRAVITY KILLS and PITCHSHIFTER. The heart and soul of JUNKIE XL is Tom Holkenborg, best known for his remix work with ROADRUNNER bands like FEAR FACTORY (Remanufacture) and SOULFLY. For 1999, JUNKIE XL unleashed it's forceful follow-up, BIG SOUNDS OF THE DRAGS, a deep cerebral fantasia of '70s Guitar Rock, physical breakbeats, classic orchestration, and of course, Tom's dense, complex studio production. This is a record he worked on for over a year - and all the hard work has paid off. "During the evolution of making tracks, I felt the need to add some warm sounds to the album," Tom explains. "That meant more programming and more live instruments. It adds more depth to the music. I tried to find more variety between the tracks but also within the tracks. I wanted slower songs with a laid back feeling, combined with the fact that some of the aggressive songs on this album are even more aggressive than ones on the first album. It took me a long time to figure out how to do that."

The title BIG SOUNDS OF THE DRAGS is based upon touring across the Atlantic and taking in that particularly American sport of drag racing. "I really like drag racing cars because they sound big, yet they're so... funny," Holkenborg offers. "They look funny, and they only drive a couple of hundred yards. They're so vulnerable, at a certain high speed always ready to crash and burn. On this album, one side has this big sound, and on the other, there's some beautiful moments. I found this record in America of the sound of Drag racing cars from the '60s, and I felt a connection with this record." The drag racing theme is brought home on this package by longtime JUNKIE XL collaborators Rod Chong & Sharon Matarazzo (MEDIAKILL) and their futuristic/organic cover art. But while visuals are nice, it's the music that matters most, right? Highlights of 'THE DRAGS' include the straight-up breakbeat science of "Action Radius", the ambient drug drone of "Zerotonine" and "Next Plateau" with its mellow Hip Hop grooves with reversed/reverbed guitar and vocals. Perhaps the best cut, the one that most embodies the JUNKIE XL attitude, is "Power of Big Slacks", a huge-sounding Punk anthem with heavy Dance rhythms and mad crazy Pop hooks. "I've been listening to a lot of Pop albums lately, especially from the '60s - stuff from The Byrds and the Beatles and Pink Floyd - and you'll hear so many sounds on those records that you just don't hear anymore in the '90s. I'm a big fan of albums by Pavement and a Scottish band called Mogwai, and what I really like is that there's so much warmth in there. And that's what I've tried to do, in my own way." Face it, JUNKIE XL is takin' it to anotha level. Will you? --www.colours.co.uk

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