A Royal College alumnus who’s scored two films (one of which garnered him an Ivor Novello nomination), played keys for Imogen Heap, earned a Mercury Prize-nomination (for 2011’s Diamond Mine with King Creosote) and been called upon for his synthesis expertise by Coldplay, Brian Eno and others – one could imagine that for Jon Hopkins, crafting finely-wrought electronica by himself has become more a refreshing hobby than anything else. But like an arthouse director shooting a home video or Tiger Woods playing crazy golf, his fourth solo album Immunity is the sound of an artist obviously functioning on a different plane to electronic music’s more workaday operators.
Hopkins’ 2001 debut Opalescent caught the tail end of Millenial downtempo but, in contrast to others outgrowing that scene, he’s assimilated his subsequent stylistic influences rather than stagnated or jumped wantonly through new fashionable hoops. Those swirling pads remain the foundation but these days they’re imbued with an authentic cinematic richness – the wondrously ethereal outro to ‘We Disappear’ sounds lifted straight from Hollywood – and he’s still expertly juxtaposing the synthetic and acoustic but, now, the piano and sundry orchestral parts feel fully-formed – sections of heartbreaking interlude ‘Abandon Window’ and titular closer ‘Immunity’ would not be out of place, even, on Diamond Mine.
What is new and surprising is how danceable this record is. If 2009’s Insides nodded towards schizoid IDM then Immunity is Hopkins baring his club teeth for the first time: febrile, overdriven, predominantly four-to-the-floor beats intertwine with cavorting analogue basslines to deliver a propulsive energy rising towards astonishing, nowhere better exemplified than the lead single ‘Open Eye Signal’ – the brilliant coda to which sounds like DJ Koze and Ricardo Villalobos jamming in a room full of faulty MS20s. The gargantuan ‘Collider‘ brings to mind Four Tet or Daphni reworking Vangelis’ seminal Blade Runner soundtrack for the mainroom, while the album’s other sonic touchstone is James Holden’s Border Community roster and the work of Nathan Fake especially; equally coruscating and lysergic, albeit never as melodically abstracted or divorced from familiar emotive cadence.
After the rush must arrive the comedown, and with ‘Abandon Window’ acting as an interval the final three tracks transport us back to the ambient-washed, cerulean landscape Hopkins calls home. The transition induces anything but dysphoria, mind, with only ‘Sun Harmonics’ feeling a little jaded. Immunity is Hopkins’ most intricate, rhythmically-adventurous and timbrally-experimental solo work to date, brilliantly weaving a coherent tapestry from numerous strands of his musical history, and stands as an essential purchase for long-term fans and newcomers alike.