Music has the power to alter your brain chemistry like a powerful drug; it can release serotonin, open neural firing lines, or make tears form in your eyes. It can initiate the sensations you might feel when you’re broken up with, when you hug your mother, or when you see an old friend for the first time in years.
Jon Hopkins is an artist who seeks to replicate these chemical, transformative moments we experience in everyday life with his music, and he’s pretty fucking good at it.
Having obtained the power to transform himself, Jon Hopkins continues his quest to unravel the fabric of the universe on Singularity.
Jon Hopkins’ new album Singularity is the first since 2013’s Immunity, a record I’m sure he’s sick of hearing described as his ‘breakthrough’. It was Hopkins’ first foray into mainstream appeal, despite at face value being quite a dilapidated form of techno.
Since then he has undergone a dramatic journey of self-discovery which involved pilgrimages into the American desert, periods of meditation, time spent with a wellness guru, and the use of psychedelics. With the tools at his disposal to push his music further than ever before, he instead retreated into the innermost reaches of his own mind.
By all his own accounts, he emerged with a finer clarity than ever before. As a listener, it’s hard to disagree with this diagnosis after hearing his latest work.
Singularity is an attempt to transcribe his transcendental experiences into a gut-wrenchingly well-produced hour of music. Conceptually, the album traces the birth, expansion, and return of a universe from and to a single point in three distinct acts; a chaotic beginning, an elevated but unbalanced middle ground, and a serene, cathartic and fulfilled end.
Singularity is a halcyon intro which spares you a short moment to breathe before multiplying into meticulous madness, while third track Neon Pattern Drum explodes with distortion so unpredictable it feels as if reality itself is shattering and reconstructing around you.
Left shaken by the shock and awe of Singularity’s first phase, you’re met by a choir of vocal pads on Feel First Life and a dedicated piano track in Echo Dissolve (which calls back to a motif from Emerald Rush). Having unfurled to critical mass, Hopkins’ universe retracts into self-achieved tranquility rather than facing entropy.
Supposing this is a metaphor for Hopkins’ long road to a balanced mental state, it seems a clarity has been reached. Whether this has been through clandestine means or otherwise, well that remains somewhat unclear.
The conversation between music and drugs is an old one, and an easy one to undermine. Drugs have been known to harm musicians, to save them, to elevate them or to completely and utterly destroy them. Hopkins, a frequent spokesman for the power of psychedelics, sits right in the middle of this conversation.
But, lacking the hero appeal of a heroin-bent rockstar on a stage, he’s chosen to use his platform to educate. A browse through Hopkins’ social pages will reveal updates regarding clinical trials of psilocybin as a treatment for depression, videos promoting the use of psychedelics in music therapy, but not a single post in which he demands “take drugs and listen to my music“.
However given the kaleidoscopic nature of his production and its inspiration in elevated experiences, fans all over the world are going to trip out and listen to Singularity, whether he likes it or not. I’m thankful to Hopkins, then, that he has made it abundantly clear you should know what you’re doing, be informed, and have a goal if you choose to do so.
Singularity calls in a lot of favours from a beautiful trip. The changes in intensity, the distinct phases, and the ultimate resolution the album reaches are coloured with the same character as many of the substances Hopkins has chosen to advocate.
Like taking powerful drugs, listening to Singularity doesn’t feel like a pull in the background of your consciousness. This is music to move worlds, slow down time, and change lives. It holds your attention like an hour-long flash of lightning, the calm and the storm rolled into one earth-shattering experience. Transformative, yes, but always for the better.
Jon Hopkins has made no secret that his life has been changed by chasing a higher state, and his fans have made no secret of the positive effect his music has made on their lives. Maybe, just maybe, those two symptoms are related.