FIRST PUBLISHED ON 31 MAY 2013 IN THE LINE OF BEST FIT
It was fitting that Jon Hopkins made his first major imprint on the national consciousness alongside Kenny Anderson. For a while their back catalogues are sonically disparate, the pair mirroring one another in other, striking ways.
Anderson, mostly under his nom de plume King Creosote, has dozens of solo albums. And while Hopkins’ oeuvre may be less vast, he’s spent the last few years project hopping – from production desk to recording studio, laying down a host of exemplary remixes along the way. Both employ a rigidly DIY approach: KC through the Fife-based Fence Records he runs with Johnny Lynch (aka Pictish Trail) and Hopkins with his enormous collection of field recordings which were used on Diamond Mine to such stunning effect. Neither man seems to bothered about pleasing anybody but himself either, as evidenced by Anderson’s idiosyncratic, nomadic recording existence and by Hopkins’ chameleonic approach from project to project.
Which brings us to Immunity: the outstanding fourth solo album from Jon Hopkins and a huge departure from anything he’s done before. The last we heard of him, Hopkins deconstructed Luke Abbot’s ‘Modern Driveway’, one of the finest electronic tracks of 2012, and remoulded it as a solo piano piece. And following the successes of his collaborations with Anderson and Brian Eno, he could have easily continued along the same ambient path to few complaints. On Immunity, though, he takes for the opposite tack. The album is the most dancefloor-friendly Hopkins has produced to date. Whereas the excellent Monsters OST, released in 2010, hinted at a more aggressive tonality to anything we’d previously heard, it stopped short of cavorting with balls to the wall techno – which is the dominant theme here.
The menacingly industrial opening track ‘We Disappear’ – all synthetic grind and mechanical beeps – segues wonderfully into the pulsating ‘Open Eye Signal’ (I defy you to stay in your seat) to set the tone. The pair showcase Hopkins’ ability to dabble deftly with dark, chilling atmospherics, but – as he’s shown so often – rarely does he turn up anything other than beauty.
Just as he brought a modicum of order to Anderson’s sprawling, meandering folkiness, Immunity hammers home the notion that few know how to stitch an LP together as well as Hopkins. After the breathlessness of the opening one-two, comes the expansive, ethereal ‘Breathe This Air’. After the cumulative beast of a centrepiece ‘Collider’, comes the gorgeous, piano-led ‘Abandon Window’ – perhaps the most orthodox Hopkins track on the album.
The record is an absolute trip: a movable feast pressed to 12 inches of microgroove. At times, it will have you lurching for the nearest patch of danceable floor; at others, your head will be thrust back, eyes closed in bliss; while the finishing title track, with King Creosote on vocals, is the reluctant, melancholic, but acceptant dying embers. This summer – if we ever get one – deserves to be soundtracked by this, one of the most enjoyable, well-crafted albums of the year.