We went to see Jon Hopkin’s sold out show at O2 Academy Brixton, a fitting victory lap for the artist after releasing his first album in five years earlier this year.
When people get loquacious about techno it can be over its hypnotic effect, its speaking to a primality suppressed within, the frustrations of the everyday liberated by the kick drum and syncopated hi-hats. Whether it’s the thump of Detroit or the groan of Berlin, techno catalyses catharsis. But what if there’s an alternative? Rather than regressing to a primordial simplicity, can we elevate to a divine transcendence? Yes, we can, courtesy of Jon Hopkins. Whilst on a structural level Jon Hopkins doesn’t deviate too radically from the techno blueprint, his USP is texture with an emphasis on melody, space and patience.
Hopkins has had a huge year. His first album in five years, Singularity, was brilliantly received. He’s coming to the end of an extensive tour, there’s stellar remixes by Daniel Avery and Stephan Hinz doing the rounds, and he completes 2018 by curating a party at fabric in December. Two sold out shows at O2 Academy Brixton represented a fitting victory lap.
Opening sets from HAAi and Kelly Lee Owens left me sceptical about how the venue’s sound system would fare for the headline show, but any doubts were swept aside as soon as the bass kicked in during opener ‘Singularity’. In fact, the sound was strong, supple and emboldened synths soaring into the rafters and over the fist-pumping crowd who were illuminated by red and purple lighting.
Hopkins glided through the opening four tracks from the record chronologically. ‘Everything Connected’ – one of my favourite tracks of 2018 – was a highlight, preceding ‘Open Eye Signal’ and weightier cut ‘Collider’. The encore saw him drop heady remixes of Disclosure’s ‘Magnets’ and Wild Beasts ‘Two Dancers’.
Fitting, as Hopkins had two dancers join him on stage. Appearing sporadically throughout Hopkins’ show, they brandished glowing batons. The visuals spanned footage of a student skater, anime tripods, and a glittering night sky which gradually transformed into the artwork for Singularity. It was a beautiful audio-visual experience, crystallised in the fluorescent optimism of ‘Luminous Beings’.
Jon Hopkins remained unassuming throughout his set save for brief bouts of fist-pumping during the odd track. He also applauded the crowd once their own cheers faded. As he closed with a trancey rework of ‘Light Through The Veins’ he bowed once for his audience, visibly overcome with emotion.
He might be too humble to require validation, but Jon Hopkins is an artist who pours his soul into his music. For that, I hope he relished the glow of gratitude emanating back at him from the crowd.