Saturday, 28 December 2013

Best of 2013 - John Hopkins' Immunity

Many thanks to, er, @tunastubbs for his (as-ever) entertaining and educational musings on Immunity by Jon Hopkins. Cracking work, young B. 


Immunity - Jon Hopkins

A few days ago I was down in London and got speaking to some folk about my album of 2013 - Immunity by Jon Hopkins. There was a Nathan Barley type character who as well as working in the studio to inspiring Andy Weatherall to create Screamadelica was incredulous that Immunity could be so good as Hopkins couldn't play a kazoo or hum the theme to Match of the Day without enticing every stray dog in the Greater London area. "No musical background whatsoever," Barleyesque stated.  As I was pretty sure this wasn't the case I checked his Wikipedia entry:

At the age of 12 Hopkins began studying piano at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music in London, where he continued until age 17. The composers that were greatly influential to him whilst studying were Ravel and Stravinsky, and he eventually won a competition to perform a concert of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G with an orchestra.  For a time Hopkins considered becoming a professional pianist, only to decide classical performance was too formal and unnerving to pursue full time.

None whatsoever then.

Hopefully without sounding too much like Homer Simpson ("Everyone knows rock music attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact"), Immunity would have slotted in seamlessly alongside some of the most innovative albums of the mid 1990s - Leftism, Orbital 2, This Film's Crap, Let's Slash the Seats, Protection, Endroducing....., Exit Planet Dust. Albums I still largely listen to on a weekly basis. 

Immunity documents a typical night I, and thousands like me, would have had at this time. The opener, and possibly the highlight of the album, We Disappear encapsulates the excitement of finishing work, meeting up in the pre-club bar and coming up on whatever you've taken. You can't stop talking. Let's go. Open Eye Signal is a 4:4 stomper with delicate flourishes which drives this feeling on. That grin is spreading across. You're going to dance all night. And then all day. Another half? Why not? 

The album continues in this vein. Tunes that would destroy a dance floor yet offer enough subtlety, nuance and delicateness for this now 40 year old parent to play over and over again whilst sitting in front of the fire having spent the day fixing things in the garden.  The inevitable change of tone arrives with Abandon Window - a 5 minute piano piece that brings last year’s Diamond Mine collaboration immediately to mind.

You're aware it's wearing off, the night isn't going to last forever and it's time to start thinking of home. Little pinpricks of awareness and light. Your throat is so clagged, you can't smoke anymore. But light another one anyway. The pace is slowing, your legs get more weary and your head gets more fuzzy. Form by Firelight and Sun Harmonics are the tracks that lead you home. Then the sun is up and you realise it's another tomorrow you're not going to see. That you're still single. That you smoked a lot of cigarettes. That you will have to work soon. That you are always tired these days. And you want to go to sleep but know that that is at least 7 hours away.

I never wanted to play guitar until a 14 year old me heard Slash. I never wanted to play with turntables until a 20 year old me heard DJ Shadow. And I never wanted to sing until 30-something me heard King Creosote. And it is he, who closes the album, adding vocals to the come down track, a beautiful piece (gently reminiscent of Insane Lullaby by Danger Mouse, Sparkle Horse and James Mercer) that soothes your ragged throat, gives you a hug and makes you think everything will work out.

Everybody knows dance music attained perfection in the 1990s. It's a scientific fact. Sometimes though, science doesn't always get it right.

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