It’s taken me over a year to realize that Jon Hopkins’ 2013 album Immunity is a masterpiece. People who are smarter than me praised it as soon as it was released. I feel a bit like some weird guy who stands and claps hours after the curtain has closed and everyone else has already gone home.
But in my defence, the first time listening through Immunity is a difficult, surreal, almost scary experience.
It’s a bit like noticing that a wasp has landed on your arm. Your pulse quickens, your brain freaks out a bit, and time slows down in a strange way, such that you’re not sure whether or not you’re dreaming. But if you ever take a really close look at a wasp, it’s a curiously beautiful piece of work.
For all its glitchy, pounding scariness, Immunity is also a beautiful piece of work. Like a wasp, the songs on Immunity seem to be simultaneously natural and unnatural, alien but familiar. Layers of percussion and digital noise make many of the tracks sound abrasive and chaotic, but Hopkins always hides melodies behind the chaos. Once your ears become accustomed to the album’s wasp-like outer appearance, the melodies find their way to the surface and you’re hooked.
“Abandon Window” is the album’s halfway point, and probably its most traditionally beautiful moment. It’s like seeing one of those wasps filmed with a high-speed camera, and marvelling at the movement of its wings.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. Hopkins is great at giving a song plenty of space. The piano isn’t treated with much reverb, so it sounds fairly close, but as the track continues, more and more ambient echoes build up, giving the impression that the song stretches off for miles in every direction.
2. Starting at 2:54 you can hear fireworks in the background.
3. After 3:15, the piano is gone, but the melody continues, carried by ambient soft synths that Brian Eno would be proud of.
Recommended listening activity:
Getting to know the art of Jennifer Angus.