I don’t give producers anywhere near enough credit for what they do.
Good producers are a master of song craft. Along with advanced technical knowledge, it’s imperative for producers to have a solid understanding of both melody and harmony. A good producer must also have a keen sense of dynamics. Generally, a lot of the work that is communicated to the masses in the genre of ‘dance’ to me is at the lower end of the scale. It involves a simple four-to-the-floor bass drum, a synth lead melody and a vocalist with a generic hook. In all honesty, that kind of predictable, formulaic approach to music making is probably why I wrote off the genre years ago.
Enter a guy like Jon Hopkins. One of the very few producers making music of the genre whom I genuinely enjoy listening to. A real musician, and someone whom is consistently moving the boundaries of dance/techno music to suit his slightly oddball yet always entertaining brand. I was lucky enough to catch Hopkins at his Laneway Festival sideshow, as he graced the Metro Theatre.
As we arrive, immediately noticeable is how crammed the venue is. It is packed to the rafters with keen punters eager to catch a glimpse of their hero at work. As we select our vantage point for the evening, I glance around and am slightly bemused by the scene. There’s barely music playing, there’s no lighting and the only sounds are the gentle murmurs of the waiting crowd and the odd yelp from the token drunk (whom I later end up standing next to, of course…). It’s a strange build up for a dance gig in my opinion. Maybe tonight wasn’t going to be the ‘elongated build up and eventual bass drop’ type of set I expect to hear from DJs when they play live?
Hopkins enters and opens with the title track from his latest release, ‘Singularity’. It’s a bass-filled, sombre beginning – allowing the absolutely incredible visual and lighting show to take centre stage. Immediately I’m transfixed by what’s happening behind the young producer. As the first track swells and builds, the visuals only get more dramatic and it feels like the room has become a giant kaleidoscope. Extremely impressive.
Hopkins powers through the next few tracks from ‘Singularity‘, covering personal favourite ‘Emerald Rush‘ and the high point of the night in ‘Everything Connected‘ very early on. The visuals and lighting show continues, and remains perfectly timed and mesmerising in tandem.
‘Luminous Beings‘ is introduced after a quick dip into some older tracks, and this is where things start to get interesting, as Hopkins teases a more deeper, darker direction for the show – and one that I was more than happy to welcome. To me, Hopkins is at his best when he’s straying into more obscure, progressive and minimalist territory, which is what started to happen as he powered his way through this highlight from ‘Singularity‘. Unfortunately, that’s where the experimentation would end – as soon as the track was through, Hopkins emerged from behind the desk to wave the applauding crowd a goodnight.
Returning for an encore of two of his more well-known covers, and finishing with ‘that song Coldplay sampled’ ‘Light Through The Veins‘, Hopkins ends the night after 75mins of twisting and turning through genre and direction.
I definitely leave feeling a bit confused and a little disappointed. Absolutely no doubt that watching Hopkins do his thing was spell-bounding – the way he crafts each song from scratch is just fantastic. Yet, it felt as though the producer was a little unsure of the crowd he was playing to. Was it a party gig filled with big drops and heavy synth bass? Or could he experiment a little and go for the tricky, minimal vibe? Who knew… One thing for sure, the gig was way too short to have the best of either world.
If you ever get a chance to catch Jon Hopkins live, don’t hesitate – even if it’s just for the lighting and visuals alone. Just understand that it’s not going to be your straight forward dance/techno gig, for better or worse.
Jon Hopkins, Metro Theatre, Thursday 7th February 2019
- Emerald Rush
- Neon Pattern Drum
- Everything Connected
- Open Eye Signal
- Luminous Beings
- Magnets (Disclosure cover)
- Two Dancers (Wild Beasts cover)
- Light Through the Veins