Electronic’s Grounded Pound
As an electronic instrumentalist who has played and collaborated with such figures as Brian Eno, Coldplay and, for a time, Imogen Heap, Jon Hopkins has a distinct pedigree to his art. With Immunity, his fourth full-length album, he offers another set of dynamic and healthy tunes exhibiting focused electronic music. As an excellent composer, Hopkins shows just how delicate the balance between movement and too much movement can be. Even when the tracks taper and return to the soundscape, there is a continued sense of movement, rather than a pronounced stillness.
For example, the jilted beat of “Form by Firelight” creates the feeling of slow motion in real time, where single plucked keys dawdle against a thwacking tambourine and a whirling synth line. The same goes for the relatively compact and punchy opener “We Disappear.” It is a charming trick of the ears, proving how skillfully Hopkins layers different elements. Regardless of how successful these tracks are as pieces of music, Immunity shows to be the mark of a concise craftsman.
Although it offers some nice and delicate strains, “Abandon Window” doesn’t really boast the deceptive movement that boosts the other tracks; instead, it seems counter-productive in regards to the clever layering of moving parts across the record. It might be a little to Eno for its own good. However, as it is the second shortest track here, perhaps it was meant more as a reprieve from the perpetual motion of the other tracks.
Elsewhere, Scottish singer/songwriter King Creosote and Dark Horses’ Lisa Elle make well-placed appearances on the album. Creosote is especially notable on the record’s final and title track, adding a soft melody over the lessening din at the tail end. Elle’s contributions are somewhat more ornamental, as her breathy sigh serves as the counterpoint to the heavy beat of “Collider,” but is nonetheless effective. For a composer like Hopkins, the ability to utilize and direct guest talent cannot be stressed enough– their contributions are, essentially, another affecting instrument in the mix.
Immunity proves to be an overall mature effort, both for its subtle and clever layering and for its overriding muscular and encompassing sound. Its sonics are as impressive as its musics, and across the record, Hopkins accentuates the best qualities of electronic music. From the playful dynamics to the layered melodies, Hopkins keepd a close eye (and snipping tool) on the elements which can sometimes weaken electronic music from a melodic and compositional standpoint. It’s not breaking any new ground here, but the album as a whole does effectively pound away at the ground which Hopkins and his peers had set out beforehand.