Stricture-Retardant. Jon Hopkins, Boiler Room.

Stricture-Retardant. Jon Hopkins, Boiler Room.

Akin to an E8 Illuminati, Hackney’s most intimate equivalent to a secret society, the Boiler Room, has quite rightly become a London institution over the course of these last few years. And indeed were it ever in need of another natural born leader, that could quite ostensibly be the endearingly awkward Jon Hopkins whose Immunity LP, released just last week, stands out a striking early frontrunner in the inevitable album of the year litanies doubtless to emerge once this so-called summer’s out. Provided it ever sneaks in that is, for at this rate we’ll all be bedbound for the entirety of the season and left to our own desolate devices, we’ll surely resort to the compiling of such utterly redundant lists sooner, rather than later. Though this week, or more accurately this evening, we’ve collectively abandoned home comforts to cram into a poxy storage space down around the back of some innocuous trading estate for the first of two consecutive London nights hosted by Hopkins himself. The Village Underground this ain’t, although that’s not to say that what lies in wait is anything other than a subtly spectacular delight…

Apprehensively ambling down Martello Street, a scarcely perceptible voice snarls inquisitively: “Boiler Room?” A guestlist overturned upon the bonnet of an argent Ford Fiesta beyond some rather gnarly fencing, we’re hustled in. There’s no sign of Jon, and no discernible sound of the bass-hefty fare for which the show has long since been renowned. Thus I ought add that the soundproofing, and so too the clandestinity of the show appears second to none and but for the odd sporadic whisper and a wispy trail of vacant Red Stripe cans, the whole shebang could be quite conceivably glossed over all but entirely by outside society.

But remain oblivious at your own ignorance, for the Boiler Room can similarly be considered a kind of highly verisimilitudinous, if equally surreal Utopia to your average off license lager-swilling, Resident Advisor-counselled twenty-something. The room itself is, well, less insalubrious than understated with rickety stairs seemingly leading to nowhere set against walls plastered with impalpable paper picture frames and other flashes of firm oddity. The floors sticky as the air is intensely humid – respiratorily problematic, there’s probably a commensurate amount of H2O to O2 in the atmosphere for it bristles with close sweat and fetid smoke alike – they only aid in the wompy stomping already engendered by the reverberant thrums of Nathan Fake. Some wiggle in front of those now infamous low fidelity webcams, while others cower ruminatively in the corners but the attention to, and admiration for outwardly experimental electronica remains strangely unmatched, and so too universal. All of which brings us right back to the man of the moment…

Immersed bang in the middle of the room, the audience throbs about he, the thumping vital organ of the evening, once he’s emerged from that same throng. Chameleonic with his can of aforementioned lager in hand, he slips out from the ether to man his idiosyncratic station: composed of little other than the traditional impedimenta – MacBook Pro plus MIDI controller, or in this instance a triptych of Korg KAOSS PADs – if the dexterity with which much of his astounding latest is reproduced might well be expected, then the predictability factor does absolutely nothing to dampen the excitement of it all. Caustic Tom Jenkinson-styled breaks combine with honed neoclassical refrains and chewy tapedeck garble during an arresting Breathe This Air, and indeed stripped of all V aside from the in-house video reel comprising Dizzee and a plethora of unmemorable DJs otherwise, it’s left to the A to hold us rapt and really captivate.

It does just that with an uncomplicated guile, although given the privacy of the soirée we’re able to not only gape at the complexity of his compositions here reinterpreted to magnetic effect, but with that goggle at Hopkins’ masterful control of his three MIDI controllers. As baleful trails of luminous red follow the scrapes made by his spindly fingers on their hypnotic touch screens, technology converges with human capability in a prepossessing fashion: he is all but impotent without his acquiescent appliances, and they ineffectual without his frighteningly proficient manipulation. He feels blind for the necessary dials as they emit everything from cetacean groans to abrasively frayed techno undertones, but it’s this inadvertent visual element which, quite unforeseeably, becomes Hopkins’ most winsome facet. For his is a performance attuned to the scrutinising of some unheralded virtuoso tinkering away all but unheard in an inaudible attic space, or that of a symphonist composing an eternally cherished masterwork.

And fittingly, an air of spontaneous composition clings to his nimble manoeuvres as We Disappear makes itself manifest in a flowing, invigorating format. As previously alluded to, Hopkins blends into his surrounds best when he too clasps a Red Stripe although he’s only able to steal a sip to quench his thirst as and when the music allows for him to do so. And this rousing punisher allots no such respite as it unravels with an almost acidic sting in its tail – the nagging influence of the neoclassical.

A thoroughgoing trope throughout much of Immunity, it’s an effect to which its predecessor, the equivalently refined Insides of 2009, was itself largely immune. And it’s the palpitating heart of said record, Light Through The Veins, which triumphs supreme and so too preeminent this evening: now, alas, likely best known for Coldplay’s heavy-handed paraphrasing of its variegated, multi-texture wonder, its recital tonight to my mind and more pertinently my ears returns it to its rightful owner, as it becomes the centrepiece around which the set is built.

A construction of subliminal pull, it plays seamlessly into the intrinsically disorienting inversion of what have now become a tedious cultural conventions, in that Hopkins performs almost as though a chosen one of us. There is no stage to elevate him above we, the fortunate few; no braggadocio of any kind; no more than the one mollifying can. And as we gawp in his presence whilst those toward the rear of the room talk a little louder than they ought, the unshakable sensation is one of having broken through the LCD display to reach into the great, if not exactly wide known we’ve become so faithfully acquainted with via the medium of live streaming. Hopkins transcends the traditional in a similar manner, and it’s thus that I suggest Blaise Bellville, Thris Tian et al. turn to Jon were they ever scouring for further associates…

Comments are closed.