Jon Hopkins is a busy enough man not to have bother with releasing solo albums, but we should be thankful that he finds the time to pop into the studio because Insides is another beautiful and fully realised work of art.
The former Royal College of Music piano student has worked with Coldplay, Massive Attack, Brian Eno and King Creosote to name a few, and has recently finished work on the soundtrack to Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Lovely Bones.
For all his classical credentials, Hopkins at heart is a creature of the studio. It is in this environment that he is able to experiment freely and produce his melodic electronica, although his classical training informs the structure and texture of the resulting music.
Insides is more immediate than last year’s ambient single The Fourth State, fine piece of ‘pure music’ though that was. The album opens with the keening folk track The Wider Sun, which subverts any Celtic clich�s by the subtle electronic touches rippling beneath the traditional instrumentation.
The Wider Sun segues into Vessel, a truly hypnotic piece of music that opens with found sounds and a simple piano refrain before layering on deep bass, synths and electronic glitches and crackles. Hopkins’ piano is the key element here, and as the track progresses to pure ambience in the middle section its prominence becomes more apparent.
Insides, Wire and Colour Eye are closer to IDM than anything else on the album, although Hopkins love of ambient music never lets the tracks become too self-referential for their own good. These tracks work by building textural peaks and troughs, a compositional technique common in classical and electronic music.
Light Through The Veins is the album’s centrepiece, a beautiful, inventive piece of music clocking in at nearly 10 minutes in length that showcases Hopkins’s strengths as both composer and studio technician. Close in feel to the work of M83, the track also has uncanny overtones of early Mike Oldfield (not a damning indictment in this parish).
The final tracks on the album take their cue from Light Through The Veins and steer closer to ambient music than the dance floor. Hopkins’s piano playing comes to the fore, guiding the listener through crystalline but sturdy melodies while discreet electronic crackles and scratches provide extra texture.
Autumn Hill completes the song cycle with its delicate piano gradually fading out into silence. It is one of several tracks that will doubtless find their way onto soundtracks (Hopkins’s main source of revenue), but Insides deserves to be heard as a unique and complete work of art in its own right.