Jon Hopkins was an important part of my transition from house music lover to ambient head. Contact Note and Opalescent were 2 of the albums I played religiously. His Art of Chill compilation (try finding a reasonably priced copy of that!) was also a wonderful late-night mix. Move forward a few years and Insides started a move towards more electronic compositions, whilst still nodding towards his previous releases. Immunity was far more club based and this was echoed by his Essential Mix for Radio 1. The Asleep Versions EP that came with Immunity appeased lovers of ambience. So, for his latest release Singularity there was an expectation of something more grounded in 4/4 beats. This is partly true.
To use an old football analogy, this is a game of 2 halves. The first half of Singularity contains some ‘bangers’, for example Everything Connected. From Track 5 onwards the album has a totally different, more downbeat feel. I think it was Uncut magazine that thought the album fizzled out a bit after track 4. For me, it was the complete opposite. I was waiting for that change.
The title track and album opener would’ve made a great first tune during the epic house days of the late 90s. A long synth, a rising breakbeat and bang, it kicks off around the 4-minute mark. Emerald Rush was one of the tracks showcased in advance of the full album release. A gentle start, this time building to a more mid-paced 4/4 affair. Ot is similar in style to youAND:THEMACHNIES, which is no bad thing. Neon Pattern Drum has a stuttering intro before the pattern set by the first 2 tracks continues. It paves the way for peak time Everything Connected, which is a monster. A 10-min dancefloor epic finally winding down around the 9-minute mark. This is the track that Immunity promised. It’s big.
The album then pivots and the Jon Hopkins I love resurfaces. Feel first Life is a lush piano led piece then eventually incorporates a choir. It would sit comfortably on the annual Café Del Mar summer compilations. It was such a welcome reprieve. COSM is Hopkins in Contact Note/Opalescent times. Echo Dissolves is a Nils Frahm-esque piano piece who’s key is its’ simplicity. The backdrop to the track builds on occasion, but never boils over. Luminous beings lifts the tempo to that of the first half of the album but it has the feel of winding down through its’ melodies. Like when the DJ has peaked and it’s time to bring the situation to a close. After 7 minutes, there is a textbook Jon Hopkins break before the 4/4 resurfaces. Album closer Recovery is aptly named. Light keys bring Singularity to a close in a perfect way.
It’s not that the more upbeat half of this album isn’t good, it’s just that I am older now. I rarely listen to dance music and when I hear it now it sounds alien to me. The first half of the album, I would’ve loved even 10 years ago but now I struggle with. Jon Hopkins is still a great producer and Singularity is still a great album. It’s just that, in my life, there is a time and place for this rather than anytime, any place.