Asleep Versions, the new EP, is the slowed down re-workings of four of the tracks off of Immunity. Jon Hopkins sold out the Royal Festival Hall in London just a few weeks ago, and accumulates accolades, whether it is for his work with other artists, on film soundtracks, or on commission to accompany modern dance choreography.
Asleep Versions was recorded in Iceland, and is the sort of music that makes it easy to imagine vast ice floes and endless rocky landscapes flowing lava-like to a distant horizon, where ethereally robed women with waves of streaming hair lend their otherworldly vocals to layers of synths and bell sounds that seem designed to encourage certain forms of brain wave activity.
Jon Hopkins studied at the Royal College of Music, and briefly considered a career as a classical pianist. But apparently a fascination with electronic music won out, and he began creating his own synth inspired music. Most notably, he was asked by Brian Eno to work with him on Another Day on Earth, and never looked back. When Eno produced Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida, Hopkins collaborated with the band on “Violet Hill,” and this record does have echoes of the same strange chordal distance and emptiness that characterized that song. So it depends on your point of view. Is it the award-winning Mercury prize nominated “painfully beautiful” music that could transport you to other worlds? Or does it perhaps share some of the slightly self-congratulatory airy “intellectual” vapidity of some of Coldplay’s celebrated tunes?
The album is intended to be listened to as one unbroken whole from start to finish. The two parts that raise their heads above the parapet are Form by Firelight with additional vocals from Raphaelle Standell, the Braids and Blue Hawaii lead vocalist who lends a certain character, and Open Eye Signal, which offers a watery feeling, with the throbbing background of a motorboat engine threatening the calm. It’s disturbing, giving off a sense of unease.
It’s cold, cold music. Yet it’s all beautifully contrived for those who want the ambient transparency of a soundtrack.