The glacial electronic tracks unfold like a time lapse of a landscape.
Jon Hopkins builds electronic giants whose gentle movements make them deceivingly stealthy creatures. The first sound you recall hearing from one of his albums may be a soft pin drop, but soon enough, the song has become an enormous, chaotic ball of noise before your very eyes. His music grows so steadily, it’s easy to take the multiple odd phases of its life for granted.
The English producer’s deft pacing in his compositions, as well as his breathtakingly pretty sounds, naturally attracted him to film-score gigs around the turn of the last decade. He also caught the ear of Brian Eno, who had him co-produce a couple of Coldplay albums as well as the ambient master’s own Small Craft on a Milk Sea. But Hopkins established a solid name for himself with his 2013 album Immunity, where he put the peaks and valleys of an adventurous night out into music, influenced by acid-techno and the drugs that fueled the thrill.
While Hopkins mapped the activity of one’s inner emotional experience in Immunity, his follow-up Singularity documents the movements of a much more panoramic scene. The glacial electronic tracks unfold like a time lapse of a landscape: while the awe-inspiring scenery is bounded by an overall tranquil stillness, constant activity flickers in its corners at a microscopic level. And rather than a linear arc, the album moves in a cycle, which is in part by design: “I knew a few things in advance, including the title and the idea of the album starting and ending with a really simple tone,” the producer told The Guardian.
Singularity transports Hopkins’ music away from the urban setting previously set by Immunity, though there are still some dance-floor touches fit for techno sets. The producer still favors the crunchy ends of his synth kit, with bass lines growling a storm in the first few tracks. The sand-blasted tune of “Emerald Rush” emerges from the neon fog with a hydraulic bounce suited for a trunk-rattling hip-hop track. “Neon Pattern Drum” is even more nimble as the electronic roar of the former track slowly morphs into a glitched, UK-garage-like breakbeat.
In the abridged single version of “Emerald Rush,” Hopkins condenses the song just to its sonic peaks to draw out the track’s maximum power. As exciting as the edit sounds, observing the album through such isolated moments only allows a look into the album’s life through its initial explosions— a zoom-in on a seconds-long spark in a long-gestating plot. Because in the grand scheme of Singularity, the noisy segments only represent a fraction of the record’s infinite stretch. The album itself more so resembles an hour-long song broken up by sections in respect to its various phases of its evolution.
It’s fitting for its big-picture focus, then, that Singularity presents a sense of grandeur like no other. Hopkins’s other favored sounds, such as the choral echoes of “Feel First Life” or the synthesizer lullaby of “C O S M,” evoke beauty immediately, yet it only glows even more magnificent as each track is given time to fully mature. The more the album expands, the more it becomes unbound by gravity. And he lets his monumental compositions stand with a certain humbleness, not concerned about flaunting power or ego through its sheer size.
The climactic glow of “Luminous Beings” cools down into the rather lonesome piano track “Recovery.” Listening to it in isolation, it’s hard to imagine such a stripped-down song to be a part of a grand whole such as Singularity, though the same could be said about nearly any of the nine tracks included in the album. The distorted post-rock edges of the title track have somehow evaporated into a soft, neon gas in an hour’s time. Singularity, as an experience, goes through such a vast range of life, and the beauty is in the seamlessly graceful transition through it all.