Jon Hopkins - Opalescent - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jon Hopkins - Opalescent

by Justin Pearson Rating:7 Release Date:2016-08-26

The reissue of Jon Hopkins' debut album Opalescent on vinyl should be welcome news for both longtime fans and newcomers alike. It gives one an early glimpse of the emotional current that eventually became a tsunami on the 2013 Mercury Prize-nominated Immunity, showing the early stages of that album’s hallmarks of deep, pulsing bass and glossy, squelchy synths that skitter, pop and crash with an intense hypnotism reserved for both late nights and early mornings in equal measure.

Opalescent is largely ambient, and it remains ordered and consistent throughout. Each song seems to resemble a different color in the form of soundwaves, just like the cover art and title would have you believe. Rather than rise and fall, the album follows a steady stream outward, and there’s just enough ripple to keep it noticeable and interesting, especially now in the shadow of the masterpiece that is Immunity.

As a whole, it’s more contemplative than frenzied or swirling, but it still manages to paint a picture with an even palette. ‘Elegiac’ has a calming guitar next to a light percussive beat, making it one of the album’s most thoughtful, relaxing tracks. ‘Halcyon’ has a barely there guitar line that floats upward before becoming grounded as a hopeful refrain backed by a forward moving beat. ‘Lost In Thought’ builds just enough to make itself sound like a question, and while it doesn’t quite resolve as firmly as one would like, the anticipation is what makes it appealing.

‘Fading Glow’ is slightly eerie, opening with sounds resembling howling animals somewhere out in a desert cloaked in dusk. Its eventual guitar is comforting, and a reminder that Hopkins is a master at elemental disorientation, although not a complete sadist. He always reminds the listener of all things hopeful and good amid barren landscapes, and this song is a strong example of that. ‘Cold Out There’ also feels distant and chilly at first, but the tinkling piano provides a warmth that acts as a light blanket to counteract any shivers.

Utterly smooth and streamlined, Opalescent doesn’t set out to turn the world upside down, but it does leave an indelible enough mark on the gravitational path that directed Hopkins toward his mastery on Immunity. It’s certainly worthy of being physically validated on vinyl along with the many other current and past works that are inevitably making their way into various collections across the world.

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