Today, the new album from Dutch-now-American talent Junkie XL (aka Tom Holkenborg), is an enjoyable and interesting glimpse of an artist in process, in transition. But then again, Junkie XL has always been in process and in transition. Although of a predominately electronic mindset, Holkenborg has been experimenting and pushing boundaries for himself with every subsequent project. As an example of popular music development, Today is probably his most accessible work yet.
Although this is the fourth proper release under the moniker of Junkie XL (which was originally a two-man operation, with Urban Dance Squad's Rudeboy, and now just a solo project for Holkenborg), there is a large sector of American and European audiences who might not have caught on to the name until just a few years ago. The hugely popular radio remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" was as inescapable as it was catchy. Almost overnight, attention was raised and curiosity piqued. Add to that Tom's involvement as co-producer and writer on the album Airdrawndagger for the acclaimed DJ Sasha, and the fall of 2002 was a pretty massive turnaround for Junkie XL.
But that turnaround was as much stylistic as it was media exposure. Pre-Elvis, the Junkie XL sound had been a more bombastic form of breakbeat, rock and techno influences. Although never one to fully isolate himself within a particular genre, the earlier works were definitely more club-driven. The next release was the epic 2004 album, Radio JXL: A Broadcast From Computer Hell Cabin. It was epic not only in terms of diversity and personnel, but also in terms of length. The mass-market release was a two-disc collection, with the first disc being more upbeat vocal-driven numbers, and the following disc a more instrumental and introspective postlude. Once you factor in the additional double-album download-only 7AM, you have four albums worth of material, taking the idea of his own virtual pirate radio station to an almost literal extreme.