Jon Hopkins - Immunity | Album Review | By Volume

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Jon Hopkins

Immunity

An rapturous journey through sound.

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Author: on August 1, 2013
9.1
Domino Records
June 4, 2013

With the slam of a door it begins, Hopkins’ beat building from a crash. Then it rips, and torn open, the synths spill out, engulfing like a wave but, rather than drowning, you’re animate, suspended within “We Disappear”.  Warbling to and fro, one might not know what to think of Immunity from Hopkins’ first track – it is incredibly engaging and cerebral, but it is also somewhat distant. It seems so at first, anyway; a lot of Immunity’s beginning half can initially come off a bit mechanical, but soon the record opens up, gushing with emotion. Hopkins paints intricate landscapes with pounding basslines, whirlwind keys and synth flourishes. He utilizes otherwise foreboding sounds to create delicate aural explorations, and many of the songs on Immunity (along with the whole) feel like massive treks. As such, we disappear, is a fitting offset to the record indeed,  as the easiest way to appreciate Immunity is to passionately dive in headfirst

One of the most interesting aspects to this, Hopkins’ fourth record, is how expertly he handles pressure. I don’t mean pressure to create, from outside influences or even his own psyche – I mean literal, musical tension within his songs. Take the exceptional “Open Eye Signal”; the nearly eight-minute track is all about build-up, those tempered warps and wubs, built up as the song’s backbone. Bit by bit they’re added to – a striking synth flourish, an underlying touch of airy keys – and then it all breaks down systematically once more, as the song runs down. It is a remarkable piece of music – borderline frightening, but unequivocally gorgeous.

“Breathe This Air” and “Collider” follow, the first built on meandering fingers upon keys and the second a nine-minute, visceral dance song. But each in its own way is aesthetically more organic and touching than Immunity’s initial one-two-punch. “Collider” in particular works as a transition between the album’s two distinct halves. Capping off the more dance-oriented, techno-driven first portion, “Collider” is the apex of Hopkins’ groove-driven creations. Not that Immunity’s later portion isn’t danceable – it merely feels a bit more sun-shiny and headphone friendly, whereas “Collider” seems fit to soundtrack an intoxicated weekend romp, hopping from club-to-club, rife in flaring lights and body-encapsulating bass. To call it a trip would be an understatement; it’s an undertow that grasps tight and mercilessly pulls you in tow.

Yet this undertow doesn’t drag you into the depths; instead you are whipped around the corner of the shore, directly into a turquoise lagoon, by “Abandon Window”.  A (semi)piano-driven pocket of serenity, the song dances about, keys impressed, their echoes resonating, reverberating off the underlying synthesizer hum, creating a wondrous cavern of sound. And if “Abandon Window” is you entering this lagoon, then “Form By Firelight” is the realization that paradise may have emerged through the chaos. The song is initially sporadic, glitching clicks fading in-and-out, until eventually, a warm, almost trip-hop beat slinks in, sopping wet in delectable basslines. It’s pure head-bobbing magic, and is the perfect lead up to the Balearic thump of “Sun Harmonics”, an absolutely mouthwatering treasure of honey-dipped harmonics and effervescent synth lines. Its quirky production touches allow the eleven-minute track to breeze on by with ease, settling down in between your headphones with a distinct warmth and a pleasant aftertaste. The same can be said for most of Immunity after a few spins.

Even as the album fades out – while the elegant title track bounces about, layers upon layers of piano echo up to the rafters, and a delicate female voice calls through the storm of distortion – there is a tangible comfort to be had. Immunity is that kind of record, projecting its emotion out into the most palpable form. At first it can come across slightly aloof in its execution, but Immunity is a two-sided coin, and while one may be more shiny and high-energy than the other, the latter portion – the bedside half – is crafted to lay heads down and rest minds. Immunity, indeed, is a redundant trait here; the struggle is a battle endlessly not worth winning.

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