The beneficent wizard of electronica embraces psychedelia on his fifth album
A thumping, mind-meltingly good night out was the subject of Jon Hopkins‘ Mercury-shortlisted 2013 album ‘Immunity‘. This time, on album five, the electronica mastermind wants you to have a blissful psychedelic experience, and he’s here to guide you through from beginning to end. Though ‘Singularity”s 62-minutes can get extremely heavy – Hopkins fondly calls its gargantuan centrepiece ‘Everything Connected’ a “massive techno bastard” – it’s still a near-perfect trip, and one that confirms Hopkins’ status as one of the genre’s brightest talents.
Like ‘Immunity’, this album is as much about contrast as anything else. “I love the idea of tracks starting off in one place and leaving us somewhere completely different,” he says. That’s exactly how the nine tracks on ‘Singularity’ operate, seamlessly passing the baton from our stunning first contact with Hopkins’ vibrant world (‘Singularity’) through to the industrial, juddering maw of its highs (‘Neon Pattern Drum’, ‘Everything Connected’) before drifting into a blossoming cosmos (‘Echo Dissolve’, ‘Luminous Beings’). By approaching the composition of this album from a strictly improvisational point of view, he’s once again disproven the idea that techno can’t sound entirely organic: ‘Singularity’ sounds alive.
Details are where this album is most rewarding: every moment is deeply considered. Hopkins intended for it to be heard in one go, and there’s every reason for listeners to set aside an hour and let themselves be carried off into his mesmerising world. ‘Feel First Life’ comes close to a religious experience by harnessing the transcendent power of sacred choral music (Hopkins trained at the Royal College of Music as a teen). Then there’s the warm come-down of piano tracks such as ‘Echo Dissolve’ and ‘Recovery’, which he recorded on two separate pianos – a grand and an upright – and cut together to combine their timbres. The former, something like Nils Frahm’s ‘Felt’, is so intimate that you can almost hear the keys brushing against one another as they’re pressed.
Perhaps the clearest example of Hopkins’ painstaking hypnotic mastery is ‘Luminous Beings’, a 12-minute, glitchy warp-field: first he envelops the listener in a muted, arrhythmic clattering, then, like some beneficent Willy Wonka, sets them adrift in a cloud of bubbling synths, and draws them momentarily above cloud level on a pillow of keening strings before letting them loose again. Like the rest of the album, it’s magic, and when closer ‘Recovery’ ends – on the same note upon which the album started – you’ll want to start the trip all over again.