Jon Hopkins at Leisure System – The Art School, Glasgow, Fri 28 Feb 2014
The electronica producer du jour weaves synths, bass and beats into a eurphoric whole
Having only reopened in January, Glasgow’s Art School union already feels like it has regained its position as a home for events promoters might struggle to organise elsewhere in the city. Its size, along with its tendency to welcome more experimental, musically diverse line-ups, make it the ideal venue for the Scottish debut of Berlin-based record label and Berghain resident club night, Leisure System.
Warp Records’ Clark and electro-duo Dopplereffekt join the Leisure System DJs for live sets, but it’s a performance by Mercury Music prize nominee Jon Hopkins that seems the most eagerly anticipated of the night, the stairway up to main Assembly Hall quickly becoming congested as his set-time draws near.
A classically trained musician, Hopkins released his first two solo albums, Opalescent and Contact Note, over a decade ago before moving towards collaboration; writing, performing and producing for the likes of Brian Eno, Coldplay, David Holmes and King Creosote. His skill at arranging emotive, instrumental compositions has resulted in work on several film scores, while last year’s return to the more dancefloor-friendly electronics of Immunity further enhanced his reputation as an artist comfortable with criss-crossing between genres with ease.
Immunity makes up the bulk of tonight’s visually enhanced set, which opens to the sound of 'Breathe This Air', its atmospheric, undulating synths gliding over a booming kick drum. We’re soon bathed in white light as stuttering Burial-esque beats eventually join the track’s floating, drawn-out piano, which fills the hall while images of constellations and astronauts shoot across the screen behind him.
‘Insides’ sees Hopkins flex and jerk in time to a swinging rhythm that’s joined by twinkling, descending chimes, fluctuating beats and a spitting, buzz saw-like bassline. It’s a track which perfectly showcases his ability to artfully weave together many elements without any seeming out of place or unnecessary.
‘Open Eye Signal’ is another example of a sound that both fulfils the needs of the dance-floor and engages the heart and head. As slow-motion shots of a skateboarder riding dawn 'til dusk unfold on screen, a discordant bassline and choral synth build and draw us in, mingling with sputtering, popping beats, encouraging the kind of fervent dancing which turns the floor disturbingly rubbery underfoot.
From behind his Ableton-Kaoss pad set-up, Hopkins energetically conjures percussive elements that flutter and break, then stutter and crunch back into rhythmic life; rumbling beats give way to an anthemic symphony of synth pulses and relentless harmonics, while piano notes tumble amongst distorted, twisted breaks until a climactic explosion of chaotic noise envelopes the crowd.
Cries of 'one more tune' ring out before he sets off a snaking acid line over intensifying beats, an emotive synth unfolding underneath. Abruptly the beats drop away to nothing, edging their way back in dramatic, frenetic stabs, eagerly welcomed by an appreciative crowd of sweat-happy smiles.