Junkie XL, Radio JXL: A Broadcast from the Computer Hell Cabin

Geeta Dayal

By Geeta Dayal

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Dutch techno DJ Tom Holkenburg, better known as Junkie XL, scored an international smash in 2002 with a big-beat remix of Elvis '"A Little Less Conversation." He returns with Radio JXL, a two-disc set featuring a raft of high-profile guest vocalists. Disc 1 includes "A Little Less Conversation," as well as collaborations with '80s new wave icons Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode, Robert Smith of The Cure, and Gary Numan. "Perfect Blue Sky" pairs Smith's trademark angst-ridden moans with a spare, icy melody; in "Reload," Gahan's forlorn baritone echoes over a bouncy electro beat, sounding almost like a prime Depeche Mode cut. In "Angels," Junkie XL harnesses Numan's naturally robotic tendencies for electroclash-inspired synth-pop. But the most surprising team-ups here are with Public Enemy's Chuck D, reggae legend Peter Tosh and legendary '60s soul balladeer Solomon Burke; of these, the standout is "Catch up to My Step," with Burke singing sweetly over a catchy gospel groove.

From singles to chillout, Junkie XL covers the bases

The guest spot-heavy Disc 1 of Radio JXL scans more like an eclectic jumble of radio-friendly singles than a coherent manifesto. Disc 2, in contrast, is a fluid DJ mix that plays smoothly from beginning to end. The focus here is on ambient-flavored chillout for after-hours listening. The mix peaks with "Breezer," a collaboration with global trance sensation Sasha. (It's not the first time the two have joined forces; Junkie XL co-produced Sasha's 2002 album Airdrawndagger.) As the track's title implies, it's breezy and uplifting; the song gradually builds from dreamy whooshes to a muscular dance track by the song's end. Other highlights include an icy remix of the Gary Numan collaboration "Angels" from Disc 1, and the 12-minute epic "Beauty Never Fades," a steely progressive house track featuring the haunting voice of Saffron, the former Republica vocalist who makes three appearances on Disc 1.