The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of opalescent neatly summarises the debut album from musician, Jon Hopkins. The classically trained artist has always taken his style of electronic music to a new level, preferring to experiment with the sounds of the Earth rather than sounds of a computer program. From an interview in 2013, Hopkins detailed the pain staking process of recording "weird little sine wave blips" from a water pipe in his hotel bathroom.
This attention to detail in Hopkin’s music creates an alluring humanity to his creations. As the definition of ‘Opalescent’ suggests, the emotion swings throughout record. Hopkins takes the album from moments of pure ecstasy to sobering depths. The eerie howling winds of ‘Fading Glow’ contrast strongly with the calming ocean sounds of ‘Elegiac’. These moods presented by Hopkins creates something greater than the music itself, igniting all the senses into a state of hazy meditation. It is little surprise he has scored the music for various film and theatre performances throughout his fascinating career.
‘Opalescent’ has a profound sense of time. Its release in 2001 marks a period of uncertainty in British dance music, the junglist movements finer years had passed while dubstep was yet to come into its own. In ‘Private Universe’ Hopkins offers an ode to 1990s jungle with sprinklings of watered down jungle drum patterns, looking back whilst moving forward. This dabbling of jungle sounds has now become a staple of modern electronic music, typified by the surge in breaks production over the last couple of years. It is this experimentation of genre, time and emotion that makes Hopkins work so genuine.
When compared to some of his later projects, you can recognise signs of inexperience in Hopkins production. Yet ‘Opalescent’ was able to not only establish Hopkins as a ground breaking solo artist in his own right but also help lay the foundations for future champions of the ambient stylings. Four Tet, Phaeleh and Floating Points are just a few who spring to mind when listening to ‘Opalescent’; indeed, the euphoric builds of the latter’s 2015 album ‘Elaenia’ has many parallels with early Hopkins work. Perhaps this was Hopkins greatest success with his debut album, his ability to inspire others while building his own legacy. Fifteen years later electronic music has come a long way, yet in an age of easy access and shortcuts much can be taken from the dedication to the human experience that is heard in ‘Opalescent’.
Words: Angus McKeon
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