TDP Review: Jon Hopkins – ‘Immunity’

For fans of: EDM, techno, house; in particular Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, Flying Lotus

Despite his rather expansive discography, Jon Hopkins was still a relative unknown prior to his “big break.” Yet, what he lacks in recognition he makes up for in talent. A frequent collaborator of legend Brian Eno, Hopkins was enlisted by Eno to co-produce for the Coldplay LP Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Hopkins’ contributions can be heard, particularly, on the tracks “Life in Technicolor” and “Violet Hill.” In fact, Coldplay loved him so much, Hopkins was the pre-show DJ for their subsequent world tour.

Viva la Vida served as a springboard for Hopkins’ career, and four years later he has released his fourth studio album: Immunity. At 60 minutes, each of the 8 tracks average 7.5 minutes, but don’t be intimidated by its length. These 60 minutes exemplify what Jon Hopkins does best: manipulate sound. Through his meticulous tinkering of various samples, synths, drums, and whatever else at his disposal, Hopkins is able to create something most other producers cannot: a full hour-long composition that, despite its ups and downs, never gets boring.

In the end, Immunity falls under the broad umbrella genre we refer to as “house,” yet the album succeeds in convincing the listener that it is so much more than the typical house LP. Like many of its brethren, Immunity consists of several layers of sound that interplay, but Hopkins sprinkles dashes of ambient sounds throughout the album (a clear Eno influence), and in doing so, adds another dimension to his music. A prime example is “Sun Harmonics”, a track that would’ve been less than nothing without the different ambient sounds at work. Although Immunity does not deviate much from the established house formula, it finds a way to stand out.

There are times when Jon Hopkins reverts from his ambient ways, and lets his synths and bass do the heavy lifting. Examples include “Open Eye Signal” and “Breathe This Air,” both highlights of the album. “Breathe This Air,” in particular, features some striking piano notes, the defining moments of the album. Other personal favorites: the aforementioned “Sun Harmonics” and “Collider,” a 9 minute long banger that is arguably the climax of the album’s narrative.

Interestingly, the album comes to a halt with “Abandon Window.” It is everything the three tracks that preceded it (“OES”, “BTA”, “Collider”) are not: a (possibly too) slow, piano-driven, ambient-heavy track. I suppose every party ends some time or another, and maybe that is what Hopkins is trying to convey here, by having “Abandon Window” follow the trio of synth and bass-driven, rather club-like tracks. However, the change in pace proves to be too much to overcome, as there just isn’t enough in “Abandon Window” to keep itself from standing out like a sore thumb. Consequently, “Abandon Window” is, quite literally, the low point of the album.

Immunity will appeal itself to both the dancefloor and the audiophile; it is a danceable, well-crafted, layered, and sonically interesting album. It doesn’t try to do too much: it isn’t trying to be groundbreaking, it isn’t trying to create a new genre or spark a new movement; but it takes itself seriously. The man behind the album, Jon Hopkins, is a talented producer, and Immunity has proven to be his best work yet. There is no such thing as a perfect album, but Immunity comes close. 4.5/5

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