Jon Hopkins Singularity
An off-kilter psychedelic delight.
The cover of British electronic musician Jon Hopkins’ new album depicts a serene desert dawn with a constellation of stars twinkling above. This star cluster, however, doesn’t appear in the astronomy books. It’s in the shape of a DMT molecule, the active ingredient in psychedelic drugs such as ayahuasca. And Singularity, intended by its creator to be heard as a whole, is a trip, with moments of intensity and harshness tempered by blissful beauty and meditative introspection. Singularity is Londoner Hopkins’ ninth album (if you include his collaborations with Brian Eno and King Creosote, and several film soundtracks), and it’s certainly his most eagerly awaited.
His previous record, Immunity, saw Hopkins lauded as a dance music star, capable of selling out big concert venues and appealing to fans outside of the typical electronic music sphere. Hopkins also crystallized his sound on that record, with glitchy, broken techno beats that nodded to both IDM and two-step garage, and captivatingly weird rhythms underpinned by distorted, almost trance-like patterns. Next to intense tunes such as “Open Eye Signal” sat gentle, melodic piano works like “Abandon Window”; Hopkins’ merging of emotional material with hypnotic, physical grooves appeared effortless. Singularity continues in the vein of Immunity, though its depth of feeling is greater, and rhythmic power more potent.
Influenced by Hopkins’ adoption of transcendental meditation as a means of coping with stress after his last bout of live touring, and also by his spending time in the California desert taking in the landscape and embarking on a series of magic mushroom trips, Singularity is psychedelic from the start. “Singularity” itself begins the album on an ominous note with distorted tones, arpeggiated bleeps, and a cavernous atmosphere, but even if the opening mood is fearful, the rest of the record beckons us towards a far more welcoming lysergic portal. “Emerald Rush,” the first single, begins with a spiraling synth riff with a viridian hue like its title, though from this ambiance emerges a hulking techno piece full of bittersweet trance riffs, swirling layers, and fractured beats. It builds and builds with backwards vocals into a spine-tingling assemblage of blissful noise. “Neon Pattern Drum” is a delightfully off-kilter slab of leftfield 4/4, where deep synth tones echo through an arrangement that could easily populate a set by Bicep or Four Tet.
Best of all on the album though are its quieter moments. “Feel First Life” (the title of which was inspired by a friend feeling her unborn baby kick for the first time) is a truly poignant piano piece with layers of echo and susurrating sounds in the backdrop. As it progresses, a choir of voices rises like a synth pad. It’s really beautiful. “Echo Dissolve” is another quiet piano composition, coated with a delicate layer of tape dust, this time with a more bittersweet air.
“Luminous Beings,” though, is the album’s centerpiece. Fusing otherworldly ambiance and a twisting analog bassline that swims among gorgeous melody and techno drums, it’s the heartbreaking peak of a psychedelic journey, and also the moment when Hopkins fuses his disparate influences into a devastating whole. And although it’s possible to pick out this individual highlight, it’s when you take in the record in one sitting—with its subtle shifts of mood, highs, and lows—that you arrive on the other side mentally revived.
02. Emerald Rush
03. Neon Pattern Drum
04. Everything Connected
05. Feel First Life
06. C O S M
07. Echo Dissolve
08. Luminous Beings
Singularity will land on May 4 via Domino.