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Singularity (Domino)

Here’s an album which makes you move but doesn’t have you dancing, that operates at full charge but stops short of working up a sweat, that could at times pass for atmosphere but refuses to settle into the background.

As anyone who has seen his work as producer/contributor (say, Coldplay) or as the one with his name on the front of the record, would know, Englishman Jon Hopkins can do low and mood-setting as well as high and beat-sprouting. He may have surfaced in most people’s minds as a kind of chill room ambience-creator but he has pulled off grand gestural electronica as well, the kind of thing which gets you into high end rooms like the Albert Hall with lots of people waving their hands with eyes closed and beatific smiles on their faces.

Singularity, perhaps befitting its name, sits somewhere between those extremes. Whereas Everything Connected and Neon Pattern Drum are hand-in-the-air moments, their propulsion determined and their trajectory a singular arc, tracks such as the barely there-but-compelling Echo Dissolve and the quasi-medieval choral Feel First Life, serve almost to set you adrift on puffs of thought rather than beats.

Again, most of the album sits between those two points. COSM, for example arrives almost without leaving, its entry mostly noticed in retrospect as piano, air and machine take some time to coalesce. Then from the three minute mark (this is a mid-range track at 7 minutes with two others beyond 10 minutes and four under 6 minutes), the ground feels like vibration and solidification.

Likewise, through the five and a half minutes of Emerald Rush, the move from light stepping synthesisers to boot-and-braces marching feels like a convoy coming from over the hill towards you, rattling past you in a sustained drive before receding into the distance. And Luminous Beings lives up to its name with its firelights swinging in the air opening segment which evolves naturally into an open highway pulsing-cruise middle section that feels quite joyous, but rather than breaking down in its final third seems to carry the mood through a long, happy night.

Hopkins’ ability to compose and not just construct may be most obvious in the final track, Recovery (the most On Land-like Eno moment here), which is a piano meditation. But that probably says more about our default setting of seeing traditional instrumental tracks as somehow worthier than machine moments.

In truth, Singularity succeeds on its writing throughout. And its beats, and its sounds, and, yes, its ambience.

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