Jon Hopkins has frequently trafficked in what might be pejoratively called “commercial ambient”. His latest, Insides even contains moments that might be called “pop IDM”. It sounds crass, but these are not condemnations in and of itself. Hopkins has been a classically trained pianist since he was a young child and, as such, he knows his way around an affecting melody. Insides is a release that is far more beat-focused than his previous work, and much broader in scope. In the context of the man’s discography, it seems like a leftfield lightning bolt of enlightenment. Appropriately then, the ethereal harmonies and twinkling pianos that gradually fade into the gorgeously immaculate and crisp bass-dropping behemoth “Vessel” seem.
Many will be brought to the album via the album’s centerpiece “Light Through the Veins”, known better as the source melody that imagined Coldplay as Ulrich Schnauss on the former band’s “Life in Technicolor”, “Life in Technicolor II”, and Viva La Vida hidden track “The Escapist”. Perhaps the nine-minute track was not good enough to warrant three Coldplay interpolations, but its neon-pasture dash through warm new wave synth fields certainly surpasses all three of those tracks combined in emotional depth and resonance. At the polar opposite of that glee is the title song “Insides”, which features a Halloween-style wind-up horror loop gutted by gnashing, gnarling percussion that implodes at the halfway point into decimating, Richter-scale defying sub-bass. “Small Memory”, as brief as its title suggests, is equal parts Jon Brion, Squarepusher’s “Tommib”, and some of the more quiescent parts of Aphex Twin’s Drukqs, a sweet and concise moment of wonder and reflection. The album succeeds in meting out these many moods in a way that’s consistently listenable, for both those who use might use Coldplay as an entry point and the cynical veterans of a consistently dynamic electronic music scene. Insides is among 2009’s very best.