There's much to be said for quickfire production. Todd Terry once made an entire album in a day, and with modern production software it's perfectly possible to turn a morning spark of inspiration into something club-ready that evening. And yet, sometimes it pays to take things slowly, as Coldplay collaborator, Eno protégé and piano prodigy Jon Hopkins proves to sublime effect on his fourth album, Immunity, which is the product of nearly nine months locked away in an East London studio. His work is an intricate mesh of thumping drums, stunning sound design and gorgeous melodies.
Immunity is an album in two halves, the opening four tracks a whirl of buzzing techno, the latter four more deep and considered. Not that Hopkins is simply soundtracking a "nightclub / comedown" narrative. Immunity is, to use a cliché, a journey, albeit one that takes the most circuitous route possible, whether via the blissful, ambient swirls on "Sun Harmonics," which wash like breakers over warm sand, or the storming, Chemical Brothers techno of "Open Eye Signal," where synths grind like stuck gears and are sprayed with rattling percussion.
For all its contrasts, Immunity is a distinctly coherent body of work. It opens, appropriately enough, with audio of Hopkins unlocking his studio, before "We Disappear" sends sparks of static across drums draped in white noise. It's like Autechre at their most accessible, building through low-end rumble and chants into a beatless outro of bells and reverb. Though Hopkins has confessed to writing Immunity with an eye on its live performance, the first half isn't all floor-fodder, and in its more pensive moments—"Breathe This Air," with its 2-step shuffle, or the languid kicks of "Collider"—the synthetic roar is replaced by minor chords, which loop through strangely jarring percussive patterns.
It's an opening half-hour awash in grit, a collision of rhythms and melodies that feel as though they could crack at any point. Then, suddenly, they do. "Abandon Window" is a moment of serenity amid chaos, its haunting piano slowly swamped in reverb. "Form By Firelight" builds again, laying tick-tock keys over fractured drums, before the title track arrives in a wide-eyed lullaby of sleepy throbs and barely-there vocals. Immunity is a journey to be savoured, revisited regularly in the knowledge that some new landmark will emerge each and every time.
Tracklist: Jon Hopkins - Immunity 01. We Disappear
02. Open Eye Signal
03. Breathe This Air
05. Abandon Window
06. Form By Firelight
07. Sun Harmonics
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