Jon Hopkins’ long-awaited follow up to 2013’s Immunity, one of the standout electronic albums of the decade, is an absorbing experience unlikely to disappoint fans. Singularity is a nocturnal journey, and a genuine masterclass in sonic texture. Hopkins leads listeners through an expanding universe, a voyage equipped with the all the thrills of a rollercoaster, before safely guiding them back down to Earth. Though it’s hardly a huge departure from the customary Hopkins design, this is possibly his most cohesive record yet. The quality of Singularity’s design and construction cannot be questioned. Provided you’re listening in the right environment, the record can be utterly absorbing.
However, it’s also very predictable. Singularity is almost exactly what I expected it to be. My expectations were admittedly rather high, but it’s still a shame to not be at least a little surprised. Nothing here stops me in my tracks through sheer astonishment like “Open Eye Signal” did in 2013.
Creating a compelling 10-minute techno tune, simply by manipulating moody bass growls and vigorous drum breaks, has become a Hopkins trademark at this point. After years of listening to his work, I still get a buzz from the hypnotic nature of songs like “Singularity” and “Everything Connected”. The sounds are rich enough for your mind to wander, but this is no disservice to the music itself, such is the nature of ambient music, which Singularity does flirt with. My favourite moments on the album are indeed those that evoke Eno’s early ambient works. “Recovery” and “Feel First Life” are composed in a way that holds real potential to evoke emotion from a listener; offering a delicate space to sustain any level of comedown.
Hopkins’ interest in meditation becomes more noticeable with each passing record, to the point where it’s becoming a categorical influence. Singularity is ultimately a record I admire rather than cherish, but there’s enough scope here for it to become a favourite for certain listeners. To any fan of electronic music, I suggest you strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. There’s a good chance you’ll love it.
7 out of 10
It bothers me not liking music like Singularity more than I do. There are elements of the album which make it clear why so many connect with it. There is also enough lacking for me to understand why I don’t. The production on the album is absolutely immaculate, expansive yet subtle. All very sophisticated. The problem is that it isn’t in service of something more pointed — at least not in a way I can tune into. Much of Singularity feels like watching Jon Hopkins nurse a whiskey in a leather wingback armchair. My participation hardly seems necessary.
When the aesthetic is applied to concrete arrangements, as it is in “Emerald Rush”, the results are really quite beautiful. We all know what can be achieved when texture is wedded with purpose, but purpose keeps things casual on this record. On Singularity function seems to follow form, and it’s hard to get on board with that. I understand why many will love Singularity, but I suspect the itch it scratches is quite specific. I wish I could see its bigger picture without literally having to look at big starry pictures.
6 out of 10
Jon Hopkins hasn’t thrown any surprises into the mix with Singularity, instead opting for a meticulously produced journey through the night. For some, that might come as a disappointment, as ‘more of the same’ is often far less exciting than a curveball. But for me, this new release hits the mark.
Drenched in Hopkins’ distinctive variant of electronica, Singularity is threaded with an ethereal, spacious atmosphere perfect for the nocturnal listener. Lead single, “Emerald Rush”, has been on regular rotation for me since its release, with its curious opening and unexpected, disjointed, yet perfectly rhythmic beat change midway through. “Neon Pattern Drum” builds out into a rolling, cavernous track, with layer upon layer unfurling steadily through its play time. And even at the album’s calmer moments during “Feel First Life” and the closer, “Recovery”, both beautiful, Eno-esque, piano focused interludes, I’m drawn in by the evocative soundscape Hopkins sets out.
Objectively, however, I can see Singularity’s imperfections. If you’ve not been gripped by the former half of the album, the latter half may have little impact at best and become a yawn fest at worst, as the likes of “C O S M” and “Luminous Beings” lean further into a lot of the ideas set out earlier in the tracklist. Fans of the near-decade-old Insides won’t find anything close to “Vessel” to knock them off their feet through sheer snarl and surprise.
This isn’t an album to win new fans with, but it is, in my eyes, a great addition to his discography and certainly an album I’ll continue to listen to, preferably at night, through some loud headphones.
8 out of 10