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Jon Hopkins: "Opalescent + Contact Note"
(****)

Covert art

The. Best. Electronica. Ever. (Or damn close!)

This time I'm going to review two albums at the same time. You won't see the beautiful cover of the other one, but I feel I must review either both of these albums at the same time or then not review either at all, because they are inseparable. If you don't want to hear how and why I got these albums and would rather get to the point, please feel free to skip the following paragraph.

I stumbled upon what turned out to be one of my top 5 favourite musicians this year by complete coincidence. I heard like 10 or 15 seconds of some very compelling tune at the end of a Sex and the City episode and decided I would look up the soundtrack for that episode on the web. So I log on and find it was Lost In Thought by a Jon Hopkins. Had never heard of him, but then I knew that Sex and the City had a proven track record in finding some more or less unknown artists every now and then and bringing them to my - and many other's I'm sure - attention. So I did what I ever so often do - look up the record on Amazon and just blindly order it - this time based on nothing but 10-15 seconds of music on the album. And, fortunately, as I ever so often seem to do, I had stumbled upon some exceptional music. I was left craving for more, and thus I turned to "Contact Note" - only to be even more impressed. It's time I explained why.

Opalescent

The opening track of "Opalescent" lays out the feel of the rest of the album pretty well. Phat hip-hop beats come together with absolutely astonishing ambient soundscapes and haunting melodies - it's a mix I find very hard to resist. The songs are delightfully progressive, spinning emotions from melancholy to hope to joy to warmth and all over again, sometimes in the duration of a single track like on Lost in Thought or Halcyon. The music is very intricate and layered, with a basic mix of pianos and guitars on top of soft pads, with refreshingly varying drum sequences that I just fell for. There are also some small ambient tidbits in between the tracks, a couple of 2-minute interludes if you will, that demonstrate Hopkins' ability to create moods that capture the listener even without drums. In this respect, Hopkins' music reminds me a bit of darkhalo, one artist I greatly admire and respect, as he also knew how to create beautiful ambient tracks and, when appropriate, mix them with impressive drums (albeit more often drum'n'bass than triphop, which is what this album is mostly about).

Contact Note

On Contact Note, Hopkins puts a new spin on the same old formula. The melodies are bittersweet and enchanting, but overall a bit darker than on Opalescent. They are also developed slightly less. Departing from the lounge chillout vibe of Opalescent, the acoustic guitars from that album are largely replaced by synthesizers now. Also the beats get plenty bigger, harder and faster. Tracks like 100 sound like something The Alpha Conspiracy would make - borderline drum'n'bass with sweet melodies. This album is the first one I've heard that pursues the kind of IDM/ambient/big beat mix the Alpha Conspiracy has been perfecting for years - and which is simply unparalleled by any other artist anywhere. My kind of music, definitely. Contact Note continues with the captivating ambient interludes from Opalescent, which serve as beautiful little sideplots in the bigger story. For reference, Boards of Canada has used the same kind of album construct to great effect. The album closes with the light-as-air chants of Luna Moth, which is actually yet another similarity to Alpha Conspiracy. "Aura" closed with the same kind of track, albeit Luna Moth is longer. It makes you want to stare at a winter night's clear sky, observing the stars, in the cold, longing for someone. Finnish thing, definitely. Some northern lights would fit, too.

Jon Hopkins has become one of those artists with whom everything just clicks. Perfectly. You could say I've waited a long time for this artist, merely dreaming of someone who would combine all the things I find most appealing and satisfying in music (besides the Alpha Conspiracy, that is). The emotional and original melodies and harmonies put together with innovative, fresh and phat drumwork, put together with tasteful and aesthetically captivating album artwork that describes and even complements the feel of the music. Surely it can - and must! - be improved upon, but as it stands today, it sweeps the floor with the competition.

TOP TRACKS: Elegiac, Lost In Thought, Halcyon, Cerulean, Grace

Tracklist

  1. Elegiac
  2. Private Universe
  3. Halcyon [Sample]
  4. Opalescent
  5. Lost In Thought [Sample]
  6. Fading Glow
  7. Apparition
  8. Inner Peace
  9. Cerulean
  10. Grace
  11. Cold Out There
  12. Afterlife
Image of CD

TOP TRACKS: Circle, Second Sense, Symmetry, 100, Luna Moth

Tracklist

  1. Circle
  2. Second Sense [Sample]
  3. Contact Note
  4. Searchlight
  5. Symmetry
  6. 100 [Sample]
  7. Glasstop
  8. Sleepwalker
  9. Reprise
  10. Nightjar
  11. Black And Red
  12. Luna Moth
Image of CD

Opalescent is Just Music 2001

Get it from Amazon

Contact Note is Just Music 2004

Get it from Amazon

Review by Saboteur


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