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Essential Listening: Jon Hopkins

Essential Listening: Jon Hopkins

Oscar Lister | Features & Interviews

An artist whose music defies sonic definition, Jon Hopkins has consistently operated between musical boundaries, impossibly melding the classically sublime with the hard serrated edge of experimental electronic dance music. Hopkins uses highly processed real world sounds and, demonstrating his keen classical training, intricately fuses them together to create a contemporary electronic symphony.

Although making waves as a producer and collaborator since the turn of the millennia, notably working alongside Imogen Heap, Brian Eno & David Holmes, it wasn’t until the release of his fourth 2014 solo album Immunity that he truly established himself as a pioneer of synthesised, processed and ambient dance music.

It is very difficult to choose just five era defining tracks for such a diverse and complex artist with such a colourful discography. However, the tracks that follow are an attempt to trace Jon Hopkins’ winding journey through an electronically infused organic soundscape that has brought us a wealth of music that in all respects is quite simply, transcendent.

This little known gem from Jon Hopkins’ rarely acknowledged second 2005 album Contact Note, may seem a world away from Hopkins’ better known hard and erratic techno driven beats in more recent years, however it was one of Hopkins’ first ventures away from the ambient electronica that dominated his first album Opalescent, into more beat driven and sonically experimental music. You can still hear the tightly organised classical sense of composition and carefully arranged atmospheric synth lines, very typical of his early work, but with a clear infusion of early drum and bass rhythmic influences and some more sonically adventurous sounds.

This is a favourite show-stopper, not only for Hopkins but for DJs across the board, famously remixed by Four Tet in 2010. The opening minute is ethereal Hopkins at his best, understated yet sinister. Then that raw and guttural bass kicks in over the top of the harp and piano melody, shocking the listener’s ears to immediate attention. Hopkins loves to lull us into a false sense of security before throwing something wildly unexpected at us. No one can be prepared for the acid house inspired assault to the ears in the final moments of this track that leads into “Insides”, the next song on the album. This is Hopkins, rougher and grittier than ever.

Open Eye Signal – Immunity
Hopkins’ best-received track to date. It’s hard not to get invested in the slow anticipatory build up to this monumental club classic. This track has an organic sound formed from an old 70s MS20 synth, and Hopkins’ own voice unrecognisably pitched up. He synthesises saltshakers, forks and pan lids, creating a physicality and humanness to this track that instantly involves the listener intimately in the sonic experience. Hopkins here does away with his previous classical rules and organisation and produces an explosive and wild dance track that is sure to get you on your feet.

Claimed to be Hopkins’ favourite track he’s ever written, this track appears to be the culmination of all Hopkins’ sonic experimentation, darkness, supressed emotion and confusion. “Collider” is one big unadulterated ten-minute techno explosion of anxious noise and incessant rhythms that resonate through your brain like a gong. As before, Hopkins uses processed real world sounds to build this symphony, creating the same tangible sound experience as in “Open Eye Signal”. With artists such as Pangaea, Karenn and Objekt all offering their own remixes of this track, its now surely acclaimed to be at the pinnacle of highly processed electronic dance music.

In 2014 Hopkins released Asleep Versions, comprising of four of the signature tracks from Immunity stripped back and presented bare and exposed, intended to be listened to as one continuous 25 minute long piece. Asleep Versions begins where Immunity ended with its ethereal title track. In this version King Creosote’s pure and beautiful Scottish vocals are amplified and more distinct, seeming to pay tribute to the stunning Mercury nominated album, Diamond Mine, they produced together. You don’t need to know of Hopkins’ previous albums or of his previous collaborations to appreciate the beauty of this sublime and majestic track, however there is something incredibly personal, reflective and effortless about this EP that seems to chime back to the ethereal sonic world Hopkins started in.

Jon Hopkins returns to Manchester’s Warehouse Project on Saturday 30th September, alongside Daphni and Floating Points.

Photo courtesy of Jon Hopkins

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Essential Listening: Jon Hopkins

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