Singularity by Jon Hopkins
A brooding backdrop of analog synthesisers and gritty sonic textures is interrupted by a beat that thumps your eardrums like a body hitting the floorboards. Hard.
That sums up “Singularity”, the opening track from Jon Hopkins’ new album.
Hopkins’ brand of techno blended with contemplative piano solos and synth tweaking isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but unlike a lot of electronic artist albums “Singularity” is well worth 50 minutes of your time (maybe not the full 62 minutes) to envelop yourself in Jon’s world and explore his layered, driving soundscapes. It’s not an album you put on while making dinner for your friends; it requires an investment – in both time and in some bassy, enveloping headphones.
There’s a palpable sense of physicality to this album. In the syncopated rhythms and panning harmonies you can sense the fingerprint of a human – perfect imperfection that’s all too rare in the polished productions of modern electronic music. This is an album built for live performance, and while I’m listening I’m constantly drawn to an image of Hopkins behind a bank of machinery, choreographing a pulsing, heaving mass of humanity.
“Singularity”, “Emerald Rush” (which is accompanied by an amazing acid-fuelled animated video clip) and “Everything Connected” are the standout floor stompers. “Everything Connected” is a prime example of the breadth and ambition of the album. For this track Jon has chosen a palette of sounds that he plays with, teasing out variations and progressions over 10 minutes that take this track from a single pulsing note, to a multi-layered, growling beast. Each change of gear takes you someplace different – from a gliding slow motion cloud land, down into a frenetic menacing jungle, and out again.
“Feel First Life” shows off the other side of the album. It’s a gentle piano interlude that takes you back to a bittersweet childhood memory and finishes with a choral touch of Enya (not in an entirely bad way). It’s enough of a break before swinging back into the rumbling bass of “C O S M”.
With so many brilliant individual pieces of work I feel like the overall structure of the album lets down the sum of its parts. The last 3 or 4 tracks bring it to a very slow finish when it could have been a much more driven, triumphal finish. The Chemical Brothers really nailed this structure in their “Dig Your Own Hole” and “Come With Us” albums, and it’s an emotional journey that just can’t be beaten.
Although I can definitely imagine future listens cutting off the tail of the album, the first two thirds are a brilliant ride and one that I’d highly recommend for anyone inquisitive enough to try on something different. If you’re into stars, I’d give it 4 out of 5, so get your headphones on and give it a listen.