Music

Jon Hopkins: Immunity

While the tracks do expand, growing before your ears from what you first think they are about to much more, they also are small, in the best of ways.


Jon Hopkins

Immunity

Label: Domino
US Release Date: 2013-06-04
UK Release Date: 2013-06-03
Amazon
iTunes

The critics who ranked Insides as one of the best electronic music albums of 2009 surely must be going nuts for Immunity, since it takes everything that was great about that album – its intricacy and spell-casting abilities – and quadruples it within a much different and even more immediately appealing setting. There’s a ghostly quality to the whole album which speaks to Jon Hopkins’ ambient roots, much as the compositional strength of every track speaks to his education as a classical pianist. The album’s overall melodic sense reminds us that in between Insides and this, Hopkins released a marvelous collaboration with King Creosote, Diamond Mine, which turned his bittersweet, eccentric folk songs into moody, modern soundscapes. That said, this is not “electronic classical”; nor is it pure ambient music or ambient-flavored pop songs. It’s dance music.

It takes about 25 seconds into Immunity for a proper club beat to enter the picture. There are recognizably ‘club’ tempos and rhythms across the album. They’re the driving force behind opener “We Disappear”, the first single “Open Eye Signal”, “Collider” and the sun-dappled 12-minute epic “Sun Harmonics”. Within these songs’ evocation of dancefloors you can hear nods towards so many variations on electronic dance music from the last couple decades – house, techno, and pop “electronica” stars like Chemical Brothers, Moby, etc.

Yet these songs are both different from each other and different from all of those templates, because of how well Hopkins creates distinct moods. It might be a cliché to say it, but there is a lot going on in each of these songs. He gets you lost in the forward motion of a track and then piles on interesting and unusual sounds, melodic phrases and passing feelings. As body-oriented as these songs are, they’re impressively interior in the impression they leave. Everyone is dancing, but also in their own heads, lost in thoughts and feelings that are hard to explain to another human being.

For all of the moments that Immunity resembles straight-up dance music, there are just as many where those cloudy waves of strange emotion take over, the pace slows down, the bodies in the room disappear and the mood gets weird. Hopkins is constantly switching back and forth between modes. For an album with a lot of hard-driving motion, there is a surprising amount of slow-motion glimpses of light and shadow. On the spellbinding “Abandon Window”, for example, they’re conveyed through piano that cautiously steps forward while synthesized clouds of sound grow and shift in the background. Other times, like on “Breathe This Air”, he’ll take so much time getting to the beat that it can’t help but imbue the “dance” section of the song with questions and curiosity.

By the 10-minute closing title track, which features King Creosote singing sweet nothings, Immunity has traversed enough territory – a lot of it more emotional than you expect, some of it quite athletic – to make you feel like the hour-long album is more of an epic than it is. While the tracks do expand, growing before your ears from what you first think they are about to much more, they also are small, in the best of ways. Hopkins is working on large-scale art but also in miniature, focusing our ears in on small details while stretching everything out to an impressive degree.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".

Music

12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.

Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.