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Review: Jon Hopkins at Albert Hall

If you’ve listened to Jon Hopkins’ latest album, Singularity, you’ll know it’s a heady mix of banging floorfillers and thoughtful, introspective ambience, often led by piano.

Well tonight it’s banging tunes and DJ sets, largely dropping the latter in favour of the former. Whether that’s what you want from Jon Hopkins is a matter of perspective, but it keeps everyone dancing throughout.

Support comes from the excellent Kelly Lee Owens, who rises to the challenge of warm-up by banging out some psychedelic techno beats. Definitely she’s one to keep an eye on.

Kicking things off with the title track Singularity, it becomes clear JH is likely to follow the carefully-crafted tracklist of the album; at least for a little while. While everyone knows what to expect from the music, the visuals are the real standout for the first few tracks of the night.

Behind the DJ table, it looks as though the tech guys have left the Windows 95-era Media Player visualisations on by mistake, as colourful patterns twist and contort to the slow build of the opening track. It doesn’t take long to establish that it’s likely this particular bit of 90s visualisation software has been on the psychoactive drugs! As the colours swirl and the music pulses, there’s an actual feeling of time distorting, the dancing slows while the colourful patterns keep apace with the beats.

By the time the opening song fades out to a moment of silence, giving the audience a breather and a chance to applaud, they’re already eagerly awaiting the next track. Emerald Rush, arguably the biggest banger on the album, has a much shorter build. And once it hits its peak, the techno drum beat vibrating the chests of everybody. The room is a flowing wave of movement, echoing the shimmering lines on the screen.

As we continue through the album, each song a euphoric crescendo building and building, lapsing momentarily before building higher still, the crowd is moving in unison; transfixed by the twisting black holes of light and colour on the screen. You’d be fooled for thinking the animators on Interstellar had lended their hand tonight.

Once we reach Open Eye Signal, the pattern of the night is well established but the music is anything but samey. The lonely figure silhouetted at the front is the conductor, not only of the music filling the room but of the mass of bodies rippling ahead of him.

And he’s rising to that role perfectly, stopping briefly between tracks to show his appreciation for the part the crowd are playing with a hearty applause. Jon Hopkins clearly loves seeing this reaction to his work, despite surely having seen it dozens of times before.

The set ends, mercifully, with Luminous beings; a far gentler beat and careful keyboard accompanying a gorgeous view of the sun setting, the night sky filling with constellations.

And then JH nips off for a quick break, probably the shortest evr between a main set and encore. He returns to play a couple of covers from musically polar opposites Disclosure and Wild Beasts along with an oldie from hist 2009 album Insides. It keeps everyone moving but nothing he does next is going to challenge the incredibly crafted performance that preceded it.

As the lights come up, everyone is left a little dazed. We all agree we’ll make sure to see him in Leeds in March next year. If you’ve heard Singularity, you’ll probably have been taken in by its magic but that album can only prepare you for what you’ll hear.

The visuals are simply mind-blowing and easily worth the entry, even if you’re not that into pulling out the techno finger. Jon Hopkins simply needs to be seen; catch him while he’s touring the album.

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