Every once in a while, a crossover electronic effort will initially suffer a chronic misdiagnosis only to later foment an epidemic of ubiquitous eulogy. That record of yesteryear was, without question, John Talabot’s ƒIN whilst that of this year would seemingly already belong to a namesake of the Catalan pulse monger in the already rather more revered form of estimable London producer, Jon Hopkins. Immunity is his fourth, and perhaps aptly most contagious recording to date – an exacting hour of immersive techno which dextrously, if only gently touches upon the murkier undertones of ambient; the closeness of house at its most claustrophobic; and the affectionately textured releases of neo-classical.
All of these cornerstones can be heard to be called upon even during the broody five-and-a-half of Breathe This Air alone – a strangely respiratory piece bearing sonic resemblance to Richie Hawtin teaming up with unforeseen idol, Ludovico Einaudi. Of course Hopkins is himself no stranger to collaboration: he brought ‘colouring’ and his unfeasibly adept production techniques to Coldplay’s Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends at the personal appeal of none other than Brian Eno, before adding ostensible ‘light and magic’ to the latest from Chris Martin & co., Mylo Xyloto. He again aided Eno in the polymathic pioneer’s soundtracking of Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, although only here have Hopkins’ subliminal beats and hulking thuds begun to seem not only so personal, but so too crucial to the contemporary. His time is indeed now, and is more so than ever before.
For although seemingly conscientiously sterile (that Immunity endures an exact hour – not one solitary second more, nor one less), there is similarly a concertedly human compassion which courses potently throughout the album. Indeed, Immunity tends to span much of the vast gamut of sentient emotion: the airy Abandon Window, during which Hopkins’ fingers can be heard impressing themselves upon his keys, recalls the vibrant intimacy intrinsic to those most muted of impassioned moments from John Roberts’ Glass Eights before billows of impressionistic noise take hold, whilst the preceding Collider palpitates to the highly recognisable throbbing cadences of the heart. Thrumming at some 120 bpm, it makes for an impactively corporeal workout imbibed aurally, with its energy expeditiously converted to kinetic disquiet. But if its impact is decidedly human, then its ingredients and the individual consequences thereof are considerably more nebulous yet: composed of ethereal vocal bits that flitter capriciously between the celestial and the infernal, static fringes that turn acerbic only under singularly intense scrutiny, and a gnarly breakdown come its regrettably inescapable conclusion it’s an inspiringly enigmatic work. That is to say that whereas its effect proves decidedly lucid, its execution seems impressively equivocal and this of course sits systematically with Hopkins as an eternally inscrutable artist.
Immunity itself, meanwhile, becomes increasingly interesting and indeed divergent as it is allowed to develop: out of Abandon Window, we soon arrive at an initially dank and gloopy Form by Firelight which, like the day itself, softly comes to light and life with it as adorably rudimentary pianistic refrains plod about an animatedly bassy backdrop replete with scuffed beats and twangs of an unknowably exotic timbre. We’ve then the album’s most expansive instance in Sun Harmonics – a luminescence-dappled grower audibly indebted to Kieran Hebden, which matures like the theory of evolution smeared across the pellucid plastic of a species-defining petri dish – and its dissolving ten in Immunity. A looped creak brings syncopation; a resonant piano plaintive subtlety, prior to a palpably snowy and astonishingly pure soundscape unfurling quite beautifully. And hyperbolic though it might sound on a preliminary, and perhaps even unenlightened first reading, it may be conceivably deemed species-defining in itself.
Thus it’s in ineffably great testament to Hopkins’ craft that I suggest the album’s beginning to be preferable to this impeccable end, for it’s among the opening exchanges that he lays down a weighty sort of law: We Disappear, all premonitory glitch and general agitation, could viably govern Jon’s native Great Britain of its own accord so regimented are its incisive cuts and thrusts, although it’s the segueing Open Eye Signal that’s the real earworm here encountered. Flatulent modulations struggle to keep abreast of a runaway tempo which, some six minutes in, thunders headlong into a compellingly psychotic maelstrom of gurgling gadgetry and holocaustic surges to provoke further infatuation.
One of few albums issued thus far this year to have proven truly immune to critical opprobrium of even the mildest nature, Jon Hopkins’ latest can now hopefully rank among those most invigorating electronic releases of recent times.
Released: June 3rd, 2013 [Domino]