It’s not every Saturday you find yourself subjected to the monstrosities of the X Factor, and later allowed to slither out to savour a compositional luminary of Jon Hopkins’ ilk, although nascent London promotions team Soundcrash quite evidently have very little interest in putting on average evenings out. And whilst it may not be as commercially viable as the dross that will doubtless one (Christmas) day spew forth from the psychologically challenged sewers of that very shit-show, Hopkins’ celebrated latest, Immunity, was mercifully an incontrovertibly far cry from the inanity inexplicably lauded by the likes of Gary Barlow & co.
Though Hopkins’ outpour is, in truth, better suited to those later segments of the early morning than it is to half twelve. In full view of dilated pupils and with the undiluted perspiration of the previous few hours now coagulating up among Koko’s resplendent balconies, the feel of a thick July fug descends. Vibrant, cone-annihilating laser beams redolent of Jon’s Immunity colour scheme then begin to ping about the erstwhile theatre to the amorphous tune of what sounds a diaphragm slowly imploding subsequent to a rash amphetamine blitz. Deep in the effervescent girth of the venue, recalcitrant eyelids flicker and slackened jaws grind amid temperatures approaching those charted in the Boiler Room. Scenes transplanted from an anti-drug campaign – albeit one soundtracked by the punitive 8-bit throbbing of Holden’s Rannoch Dawn – a latent anticipation suggests this is to fall far from your usual London night out.
It boils over by the time Hopkins, enrobed in the modesty of a plain white tee, appears. He flails a limb skyward in recognition of the overflowing rapture, as his visuals start to boot up. In terms of the V to his A, we’re treated to a fairly rudimentary, VHS-acquired compilation of sepia aeroplanes hanging over fields of reeds congealed in dribbling daubs of condensation to begin with. From this, the reactionary – a sort of plasmatic Instagram aesthetic – we graduate to scenes of bacterial reaction, fully rendered in iOS 7 pastel shades. It seems pretty apt, given the abundance of iPhone held aloft throughout for the futile purpose of fruitlessly ensnaring the intangible, and they merge into one thalassic blue immersive as the anemone visuals to follow. Though no matter how absorbing Hopkins’ visuals may at times be, it’s his aural involvement we’ve come to luxuriate in this early morning.
His interpolation of intelligence in dance music in order that it be as much a cerebral, as it is a corporeal attraction, is admirable in the extreme, and Immunity succinctly exhibited this inimitable capacity to at once ignite our synapses and unite the senses. It’s for this that it was recently nominated for next month’s Barclaycard Mercury Prize, and indeed it’s an album to have made an in every respect greater noise than the remainder of the nominees combined; for this that Hopkins has recurrently collaborated with none other than Brian Eno; for this that he has latterly experienced a stratospheric rush in popularity. For Immunity is the sound of a man’s limitless vision at last synchronised with his musical ability. The theatricality of Koko – for which see its salacious colours and salubrious balustrades – makes it a perhaps more melodramatic setting than these sorts of softly understated sounds are traditionally accustomed to, and Jon is way too far away for his skittish flicking of switches and general jittering to be anything other than nebulously discernible. The pertinence of his auxiliary V is thus to compensate for his imperceptibility amid smog and strobe, as much as it is to accentuate his requisite, and with that widely revered A. And whatever he may be up to, the sound coming from his Korg KAOSS PADs remains consummate.
As we collectively draw breath, Breathe This Air begins. Its every phrase akin to a breathtakingly crisp sunrise in optimism and scope alike, if there may be a scintillating simplicity to it then there is also an unfathomable depth that’s absolutely simultaneous. And at the centre of the glitchy maelstrom it later becomes is Hopkins – a figure of unflappable tranquility; one expressive of a reticence to radically belie his burgeoning ability. If this evacuates the lungs, then the brutal salvos of We Disappear surely unravel both intestines. Insides, meanwhile, comes across an abrasive wobble able to disembowel even the greasiest of guts, and it’s as such that Hopkins dispels the common correlation between the music we hear, and the moves we consequently make. For this is perhaps the most corporeal music yet made in that not only does it compel motion – and in certain corners commotion, of course – but each composition seems to represent a bodily organ, with every one equivalently vital to the last. The surly thumping of Collider is only too forthcoming in its robust justification of such theory, its every propulsive thrust sending fizzling signals through twitching muscles and spasming fibres. Joyously hypnagogic and therefore aided by the tardy stage times, it’s a wonder Koko withstands it. And the same can be said of the industro-techno squelch of Open Eye Signal: although there’s little variation to it tonight, improvisation ultimately feels irrelevant, for the purpose of the evening is instead for us to pitch up and appreciate one of the year’s finer works in person.
But it’s Light Through The Veins, transfused from 2009 effort Insides, which arguably first brought Jon to the greater, more mainstream prominence he’s now been granted. For having featured on Coldplay’s Eno-helmed, and Hopkins-coloured Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, Chris Martin et al. inadvertently lent their unlikeliest of collaborators a hand. Tonight biting that which feeds, however, he doesn’t so much transfigure as deform the piece, transforming it into a hefting palpitation pumping to the sound of big beat thrumming its beefy way through the bloodiest of abattoirs.
Nonetheless, one can’t help sensing these works – ones that often sound as intricate as the internal mangles of the human body itself – are more than a little lost on such an ambivalent congregation. One gorging on its own features for the most part, such dextrous colliding of two conventional, if traditionally disparate musical spheres – namely compositional, and a more electronic approach – merits a more concerted attention. The plush immersion Hopkins proposes, and his simultaneous emulating of both the most honed bits of Sónar’s neo-classic proclivities and those more boisterous outbursts renowned of Bestival is nothing, if not wholly heartening.
The purpose of this particular review though – as is so often the case, I suppose – resides in its duty to inform, for the evening was certainly one worth remembering for as long as you’re able. It signified the triumph of the introvert in the realm of the chemically enhanced extrovert, with the sense of victory over adversity mirrored in Hopkins, himself a studio wunderkind to all intents and purposes, wreaking all sorts of auxiliary havoc onstage. In a smidgen over an hour he’s been and gone, the evening over before you feel as though Jon has been afforded the opportunity to really get this one going. Although on such incendiary form, his time, and with that extended sets doubtless await.