Inside, the air is fetid, like being in morning’s mouth. On one of the first truly hot days of the year, people are breathing for the first time, their bodies expanding, air conditioners taken by surprise. Jon Hopkins slices through the humidity to take to the stage and begins his set with material from ‘Immunity’ – a record that was many musicians’ choice for album of 2013. A musician’s musician, thus, sublime.
Behind him is the head of a spaceman, concentrating on the stars sweeping back over his visor. He’s boss-eyed with the strain and, from where I’m standing, Jon Hopkins is his nose, pinned in place by the astronaut’s eyeballs, which, while holding him there, seek at the same time to understand what he’s doing. So what is he doing? First of all, I’d like to try to describe what it looks like he’s doing. Jon Hopkins looks like he’s trying to type a very important letter using a keyboard that bucks and writhes under his fingers. Jon Hopkins looks like a casually-dressed sushi chef who is trying to cut Michelin-starred sashimi from a large, powerful fish that is still very much alive. But what is he actually doing? Why, he’s throttling melody and shattered rhythm out of his spaceship of course.
The sounds spattering the air are recognizably from ‘Immunity’ yet bent and wrestled into new, swooping shapes, and with each sudden ascent or plunge the crowd shrieks as if riding a rollercoaster. The visuals move from cosmic to local, earth-based, and ‘Collider’ arrives in a wash of red. This is where Konstanze comes in. For a while I’ve felt, or thought I felt, someone typing on my back, and after some particularly determined taps I turn to see a woman, blonde, mid-forties, happy and intoxicated, fingers raised to begin another sentence.
“Konstanze, from Potsdam.”
“Nice to meet you.” And so on.
In a while she says, “This is ‘Collider’, my favourite.” And then she points at my drink, “May I…?” I don’t really have time to answer before it’s out of my hand and down her throat.
It’s hard to begrudge a stranger the remains of something enjoyed, and pointless to even try to discuss it with them, especially in the deafening onslaught of beats that close ‘Collider’. So brutal are they that people are screaming as if their heads are being hacked from their necks with blunt swords. It’s a sign of things to come. From this point onwards, the set builds in intensity. Gone are the intricate, playful textures of ‘Immunity’, or not gone exactly, but buried under a heavy, oozing carpet of molten rock. The visuals become starker, sometimes beautiful (multi-faceted and glittering jewelscapes), sometimes severe (mere black and white jagged lines). As if to reflect this, the bones of the music poke out, white and polished from the flesh. One track contains such a savage, protracted break and build-up that, by the time the beat drops back in I feel as if I’ve scarfed a deadly cocktail of the most potent drugs known to mankind. And I think that, if I had, I would at that point have either a) immediately died, or, b) instantly solved an unsolvable maths problem, say, the Hodge Conjecture, or the Navier-Stokes Existence and Smoothness Problem.
I’m hammered flat.
There’s some respite with the last track of the set – a jolting, eerily beautiful piece which soothes like the warm tongue of a friend now licking the ear they’ve only moments ago been shouting in – but the encore brings things back up to a lunatic pitch. Sonically, it’s violent, visually, even more so. Flashing psychedelic paisley and geometric wallpapers flash at fit-inducing speeds, obliterating all but Jon Hopkins’ head, which floats in the multi-coloured morass like the head of a Day Today weatherman. It’s like going round your grandma’s house to find she’s gone mad. She’s sitting in a high-backed armchair, insisting you help choose her some new wallpaper. She raises one sample after another, at frightening speed. The colours and patterns flash before your eyes and, all the while, in her high-pitched, cracked voice, with flecks of spit flying from her face, she’s saying, “You like this one? You like this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? Or this one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one?”
And soon you’re crying, and you put your hands over your eyes and whisper, “I like all of them gran, let’s use them all.” But she doesn’t hear you, and you have to repeat yourself louder and louder. Soon you’re screaming at her and when she finally hears you, instead of looking shocked or upset to be shouted at, she smiles, says “yes dear”, and then asks you, very quietly, to leave.
Words: Dominic Blewett
Photos: Annett Bonkowski
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