Jon Hopkins Jon HopkinsMonsters
Jon Hopkins is one of those geniuses who operate under the rug, without being seen by the masses, without his presence being noticed. But one has to grant the Brit a reverential respect, not only for his own musical heritage, which is already great in and of itself, but also for his semi-veiled appearances in other projects, which add even more curves to his fascinating silhouette. Few people can brag of having worked with Brian Eno to his friends, but Hopkins has done so with high marks. He shaped the maestro’s improvisations in “Small Craft on a Milk Sea” (and had previously joined forces with him on the soundtrack for “The Lovely Bones”, directed by Peter Jackson). If this weren’t enough, his name can also be traced on the production credits of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”, also thanks to old Eno, who brought him onboard. This is no joke.
If being trusted by the author of “Ambient 1: Music for Airports” and the huge group led by Chris Martin isn’t enough of a calling card, Hopkins has also managed to leave critics weak in the knees with three of his own albums that have made his passion for cinematic futurism clear, along with a sound indebted to 90s IDM, halfway between artificial intelligence and contemporary classical music. Simply taking a look at the impassioned reviews of his latest work, “Insides”, one understands that in terms of evocation and electronic chamber music, Hopkins is a sorcerer gifted with an amazing talent. To this chain of triumphs, we can add a very recent EP of reconstructions – “Remixes”– with two of his songs rebuilt by no less than Nathan Fake and Four Tet, and we have no choice but to recognise the overwhelming solidity of one of the best-connected artists, with the biggest dose of pure genius, on the current European electronic music scene.
What is waiting for us in this monumental work is Hopkins’ solo debut as a soundtrack composer. The step that he needed to take. It’s time for him to leave the shadow of Brian Eno behind, to face danger alone. The film is ideal for his passages of boreal electronic music. “Monsters” is one of the surprises of indie-fantasy film this season: Gareth Edwards’ film is a sort of drama with aliens where science fiction—some people are talking about “District 9”– comes together with apocalyptic film and the intimate road movie: the ideal brew for Jon Hopkins to bring out his arsenal of synthesisers and the test tubes of his alchemical laboratory and to create an ambient fog in order to generate images of desolation, post-holocaust melancholy, sadness and worry in the face of the unknown in listeners’ minds.
The textures resort to the most extreme horror– “Attack” is as if Scorn had done a remix of the theme song from “Psycho”– as well as to futuristic depression –sensational and subtle in “Candles”– and nostalgia for loss –the final pianos of “Journey” leave you breathless. Davide Rossi handles the string arrangements masterfully, as he already did in “Viva la Vida”, and he manages to adjust the contained orchestral epic to a mantle of electro-atmospheric variations anchored in the ambient sparks that started so many fires in the 90s (in old-school IDM, so that we understand each other).
The canvas is moving. For its loveliness, for its ability to really hit you on the inside, for the very powerful emotional charge of its more elaborate abstractions: “Candles” is like the caress of an android about to die; “Underwater”, with violins that seem to cut your tongue out and nightmarish synthesisers, forces choking sobs from you; “Campfire” slides a minimalist piano over our tear ducts and seems to be cut from the same pattern as the wonderful soundtrack of the series “In Treatment” . We are looking at an enormous album, one hard to contain in the length of this review. It is the soundtrack of a film, without a doubt, but the album could perfectly well be its own soundtrack. Because “Monsters” confirms that Jon Hopkins’ ability to generate images is much stronger than that of film itself. It’s the soundtrack of the year, there’s no denying it.