Jon Hopkins faces the timeworn dilemma of the laptop wonderkid: how to make the music work live.
Other electronic dance acts have solved the problem by introducing a charismatic frontman or dazzling the audience with memorable light shows, as happened with The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers retrospectively. The Surrey musician and producer has chosen a third way: turning the drum beat up on tracks from innocuous to thundering.
It’s quite a shift from the studio output for which he’s most well known, which over an 18 year career has been finessed into reflective ambient electronica. During this time he’s produced Coldplay, collaborated with King Creosote, and been nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for his score for the 2010 film ‘Monsters’.
None of which quite prepares the audience for the live version of fifth album Singularity, from which he plays the opening four tracks in sequence. Only the numbers that bookend the set, the release’s title track and ‘Luminous Beings’, retain the subtle textures of their tinkling shoegaze ambience.
The rest of the material has been reimagined in a way that emphasises its roots in techno and that’s more in keeping with the aggressive dance tracks found on 2013’s Immunity, from which he plays ‘Open Eye Signal’ and ‘Collider’. The latter is accompanied by two women performing simple majorette moves with what appear to be light sabres.
Their appearance highlights the show’s major weakness: that it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a gig or club night. With the exception of the majorettes, the lightshow and videos aren’t remarkable enough to command extended audience attention. Yet with the tracks being largely played discretely, it maintains the structure of a traditional gig and interrupts any serious attempts to dance.
The addition of two remixes during the encore – Disclosure’s ‘Magnets’ and Wild Beasts’ ‘Two Dancers’ – further blurs Hopkins’ intention. He may have hoped for ‘everything connected’ but, on this occasion, he achieves disconnection.