Jon Hopkins' quasi-companion EP to last year's Mercury Prize-nominated Immunity is the audio equivalent of a warm blanket. Just in time for the Polar Vortex.
Jon Hopkins' album Immunity topped my "best of 2013" list, primarily because out of all the albums released that year, it was one of the best paced. Loosely conceptualized to unfold over a single night, Immunity bumped and pulsated early, leading up the chaotic "Collider", which set up for a stunningly beautiful series of songs that calmly ushered in the morning.
Hopkins, ever the studio tinkerer, has re-imagined his Mercury Prize-nominated album in an EP that's roughly the inverse of Immunity's layout. Instead of unfolding over one night, Asleep Versions begins with the quiet of the dawn and gradually builds its energy. Like its source, Asleep Versions works best if listened in one sitting. At a lean 25 minutes, it's less of a time commitment than listening to a single Swans song from their latest album.
Hopkins chose to head to Iceland to record Asleep Versions. In an interview with the Quietus, Hopkins cited Sigur Rós (whose studio Hopkins used to record Asleep Versions) as an inspiration, but stated he tried not to make the influence obvious on the EP. While there are some parallels, mainly in the delicately soft keyboard arrangements on "Form By Firelight" and "Open Eye Signal", the only major comparison between the two comes in the sonic environment both artists create. At their peak, both have released some of the best winter listening albums in the past decade.
Asleep Versions logically begins where Immunity ended with its ethereal title track. Not much is drastically altered with the exception of King Creosote's vocals, which are more distinct. The final track, "Open Eye Signal", is supposed to represent Asleep Versions' most "awake" moment, but even that track is blanketed by quiet ambiance. Taken as a whole, Asleep Versions may lack Immunity's bubbling buildups, but the uniform beauty of tracks like "Form By Firelight" (featuring a standout vocal performance by Raphaelle Standell) come close to surpassing the originals.
As a standalone EP, Asleep Versions can be enjoyed without having heard a single note from Immunity. For people who loved that album, Asleep Versions is far greater than a standard "remix" album. As a companion album to one of the best albums, electronic or otherwise, of this still-young decade, Asleep Versions is a great nightcap, or eye-opener depending on how you interpret it.