With our time increasingly dominated by our digital relationships, there is always a danger that we are neglecting ourselves. We are are finding it more and more difficult to effectively reflect on our conscious and unconscious selves. To that end, there has been a steady rise in methods that promote gaining a valuable, broader understanding of what makes us tick such as meditation, transcendental yoga and the use of organic psychedelics.
On new album Singularity, acclaimed British producer Jon Hopkins has purposely set out to, as he puts it, “follow the build, peak and release of a psychedelic experience.” As a result, Singularity is an intense, wholly immersive record that invites the listener to temporarily escape from the mundane and the repetitious and take a peek into their own subconscious.
Having experienced various methods of psychedelic awareness raising practices, Hopkins is all too aware, that the path to meditative bliss is not always a smooth one. You at first need to become hyper-aware of yourself and any hang-ups that swirl around your brain before gradually relinquishing them. Something that is artfully reflected on the first half of the album.
Opener “Singularity” begins with circling, swells of synth and percussion that fuse into a dense soundscape, as Hopkins scaffolds a beat that climbs higher and higher before dropping onto a stony bed of cracked, subterranean beats. Eventually, the whole track collapses in on itself, stuttering to uncertainty.
After a twinkling opening with a wondrous sequencer line and ambient piano, “Emerald Rush” gradually floods the senses with Hopkin’s recognizable mix of reverb-heavy, throbbing beats and shuffling, fidgety synths backed by swirling wordless, female harmonies. The ambient thrum of “Neon Pattern” gives way to a barnstorming house beat that kicks the whole thing it into gear on a track that constantly seems to be gaining momentum.
“Everything Connected” is an almighty techno epic in every shape of the word. Beginning with a invigorating beat, circled by clusters of intricate, wheezy percussion the track gradually folds together before Hopkins gently unfurls a breezy keyboard line and wide-screen ambient sounds. It’s one of Hopkins’ most expansive pieces to date as he adeptly marries the more urgent techno and plaintive, ambient sides of his music. As a result, he is able to experiment with depth in a unique way, managing to skew all sense of perspective.
Signaling the accession to the summit of transcendental bliss, the drone of a single note leads “Everything Connected” into the emotionally taut piano of “Feel First Life”. The wordless choral singing, seems to mirror the transition from the physical to a more spiritual place. It is a pivotal point on the album as from here on in, the mood changes markedly.
“C.O.S.M” opens with the gentle tinkling of synths like droplets of rain hitting a window pane before full, synth chords emerge like dark, densely packed rain clouds. It’s an ominous, beatless track that contrasts perfectly with the gorgeous piano lead “Echo Dissolve”. Echoing the opening of “Emerald’s Rush”, “Echo Dissolve” suggests the first tentative steps towards enlightenment.
“Luminous Beings” is another of the grander pieces on the album. Over the course of it’s extended running time, every second is subtly manipulated for maximum effect. It also finds Hopkins’ experimenting with perspective as single layers of sound displace themselves and edge ever closer before gradually drifting away. It’s as if, the track is trying to make sense of itself before achieving comprehension.
The slow, gliding meditation of “Recovery” closes the album and suggests that Hopkins’ has finally found peace on a track that serves as the direct counterpoint to the opening song, “Singularity”. In this way, Hopkins successfully guides the listener to the endpoint on a nuanced, often breathtaking, sonic journey.
Hopkins weaves a thematic consciousness throughout each song on Singularity and, rather astonishingly, manages to intensify the listening experience to evoke the euphoria and vivid awareness of a psychedelic experience. There is a distinct symmetry to the album with the effectiveness of the more urgent first half benefitting from the more ambient, immersive second, on an album that begs to be heard as a unified whole.