, May 31st, 2013 08:36
After his recent collaborations with Brian Eno and King Creosote (on the Mercury-nominated 2011 album Diamond Mine), you could be forgiven for approaching Immunity, Jon Hopkins's fourth solo album, expecting another soothing collection of intimate songs – the sonic equivalent of tasteful, aural wallpaper. The first sounds you hear on Immunity suggest these expectations might not be too wide of the mark – a key in the door (of Hopkins' East London studio) and then the door slamming; exactly the sort of found-sound trimmings that epitomised Diamond Mine and his work with Eno.
So it was something of a surprise that two minutes later I found myself jerking around my living room like a loony, checking the Fabric listings as 'We Disappear' did its level best to force me out of my house and into the night to go raving. Glitchy beats on the outer limits of jackin' techno join a symphony of emotive synths and demented bleeps and bloops for a club-friendly take on the crunchy, complex alien electro that Autechre were serving up before they started trying to make the musical equivalent of an advanced trigonometry exam.
And it turns out that 'We Disappear' is not a misnomer, at least not for the first half of Immunity. It is more of an appetite wetter, as 'Open Eye Signal' ups the ante, with Hopkins off into the realms of label mate Four Tet's organic, cosmic techno, with an effervescent synth-line, propulsive beats and a celestial vocal provided by a chorus of heavenly angels. 'Build This Air' takes a more circuitous route to the dancefloor, with an elegant build into a rhythmic Burial-flavoured workout.
The BPMs drop slightly for the nine-minute epic 'Collider', the album's centrepiece and the best thing Hopkins has ever put his name to, as muscular beats, pounding bass and snatches of a breathy, verging on the pornographic, female vocal combine in a melodic re-imagining of the mogadon techno of Andy Stott. After that brutal slab of tech-noir the ambient soundscape 'Abandon Window' is welcome; more in keeping with his work with Eno, as pianos drip meditatively over lush synth soundscapes. 'Sun Harmonics', as its title suggests, is utterly gorgeous, languidly unwinding over 11-minutes of pulsing, hypnotic machine music. The album closes with the track after which it is named, 'Immunity', an impeccable sliver of electronic soul. Once again, the pacing is unhurried; the haunting, almost hymnal, male vocal the most overt on the album. It's a stunning end to a brilliant album.
Hopkins nearly chucked in making his own music after becoming disillusioned when his initial solo albums on Just Music were pretty much ignored. Thank Eno he didn't. Hopkins is one of the gifted few who can imbue his machines with tangible warmth and genuine emotion, whether they are tempting you onto the dancefloor or offering you a moment of sedentary reflection. Up to this point, Hopkins is best known for the work he does with others, as an arranger for Coldplay, an in-demand producer and a talented collaborator, but Immunity is the record that defines him. You'll be blessed if you hear a better album of electronic music this year.