Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jon Hopkins - Insides

Jon Hopkins
(2009, Domino)
RIYL = DoF, Pantha du Prince, Four Tet

Every once in awhile, usually a long, long while, I am lucky enough to experience a certain type of album, an extra-ordinary piece that “clicks” with me so much that (and maybe you’ve had this happen to you… or maybe I’m crazy) on first listen, I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere, sometime in the past or in a dream, a place I can’t quite spot. Not, you know, “Oh, this Jet song sounds just like the Beatles,” or, “Oh, this Jet song sounds just like Iggy Pop,” or, “Oh, this Jet song sounds just like the Rolling Stones.” More like, “This music is the fulfillment of something that my life, my hippocampal experience, has been moving towards for years. This album was composed in my mind, all the clicks and clacks, instrumentation, white noise, harmonies and chord structures, and then folded up, tucked in an envelope, and stashed under a rug in the front room of some cortical fold, only to be recalled if certain choices were made, certain turns were taken; the right cards played, the right events played out.” And, as you might know or can certainly imagine, this is a freaking sweet experience. It’s illuminating. Poignant moments, maybe even ones imagined, are replayed in the mind’s eye; flashbulb emotions thought to be extinct show up in full force. The music becomes transcendent: it is felt, seen, sometimes even tasted as it pumps through headphones, and all as I’m only beginning to become familiar with it. It’s like receiving an album pre-programmed with all the associations that we generally attach only after years of meaningful, memory-creating listening. It’s awesome.

Insides is one these albums for me. It is the embodiment of a dream album, a gorgeous, perfectly crafted piece that has been playing—unbeknownst to me—in my mind for some time now. It’s been almost five years since Jon Hopkins’s last release, and, truly, the new album is worth the wait. I won’t bother you listing all the things Hopkins has been doing over those five years (producing, composing for modern dance shows, scoring films, blah blah blah), but know that he is a busy man and he is blowing up—and not on an esoteric-music blog scale, on an international, multi-disciplinary scale. It’s a recognition that is well deserved. The songs on Insides accomplish a flawless mix of diverse electronic sub-genres, maintaining complete and total cohesion as an album. There are prominent elements of minimalism and ambience, but also moments of dubstep force, glitch anxiety and fervent, swelling strings. There is a very complete range of styles hinted at, but no one is ever unleashed to the point of pastiche; the album, despite all its ambition and grandeur, is a triumph of restraint, control, and technical finesse. Insides is a moving, arresting work, an out-and-out beautiful, successful, great album.


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