Features Jeremy Dutcher | Jon Hopkins
FANS HAVE WAITED FIVE BREATHLESS YEARS for Singularity, UK producer Jon Hopkins’ fifth full-length, but no one is more excited for its May 4 release date than Hopkins himself. “It’s a nice feeling that people are going to hear this, finally,” he says. “Especially after all that work.”
Jon Hopkins’ breakthrough 2013 LP, Immunity, was a resounding success — his luminous, deeply textured techno epic garnered him both universal critical acclaim and a Mercury Prize nomination — but for Hopkins himself, it came with unforeseen downsides.
“My life changed radically with the release of that album. For the first time, I was officially in demand as a touring artist, which meant endless travel and these crazy exciting experiences. But it was very gruelling and demanding. After a couple of years of that, I found myself burnt out and really in need of some serious rehabilitation.”
In the summer of 2015, Hopkins took a break from writing film scores, touring and collabo- rating to focus on himself. He did what he calls “the clichéd ‘musician in California’ thing: started to meditate, went to Joshua Tree.”
Eventually, the rest paid off. “New musical ideas started forming in my head, and I found myself starting to write again, which was really exciting. In order to truly explore what I could write as a solo artist, I needed to shut the door on everything else for a bit.”
If there’s a defining characteristic of Hopkins’ glitchy, dynamic compositions, it’s their textural depth. And when he’s working on a deadline to complete a film score, “there isn’t really any opportunity for sonic exploration. There’s no time to play around with a sound for six weeks.”
Compositions like Singularity’s opening title track and first single “Emerald Rush” feature such depth that, on headphones, it can seem like the music is coming from inside your head. Hopkins spreads out even further here than on Immunity, deftly balancing his dark, brooding techno with lighter, airier piano compositions — and even choral music.
“Blending techno into choral music over a few minutes was a great challenge,” Hopkins asserts. “There’s no way you could just go straight from the extremely dirty, gritty ending of ‘Everything Connected’ straight into choral music [on ‘Feel First Life’]. It had to feel organic, like they were growing from the same place.”
That “same place” provides an important thematic centre to Singularity. The album ends and begins on the same note, an attempt by Hopkins to evoke “the infinite expansion of the universe and the eventual contraction back to that point,” but on a more microcosmic scale; it’s about life cycles — not unlike Hopkins’ own return to peace and balance.
“Now that Singularity is done, I can look back on it, and it’s almost like some sort of living thing that’s purifying itself over the course of that hour. By the time it gets to the end, it’s in the exact opposite place, and yet it ends with the same sound — the infinite simplicity of that one note. I like that idea.”
“In order to explore what I could write as a solo artist, I needed to shut the door on everything else.”