Anna Cieslik ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Jon Hopkins is a musician, not a performer, and his live set is a clear reminder of this. Not one to focus on theatrics, the London-based producer threw down an impressively intricate set at Cambridge’s Sinclair last week and it was all about the music.
Before Hopkins came on, Clark took the stage to set the mood for the night with his dark, driving rhythms. Clark definitely didn’t hold back, releasing his hard beats and aggressive melodies on the crowd throughout the powerful set. His sound is more severe than Hopkins’ ambient beats, but Clark’s 45-minute set still served as the perfect compliment to Hopkins’ music. His mix flawlessly introduced the headliner without competing directly with his sound, leaving the crowd excited to see what Hopkins had in store for them.
Hopkins took the stage in an understated fashion that came to be expected of him by the end of the night. Without so much as an introduction, he walked up to his equipment and immediately started in on his complex set. In an age where so many producers and DJs are focused on interacting with the crowd and blowing everyone away with outrageous visuals, it was refreshing to see Hopkins let the music speak for itself. With a bare-bones stage design and no talking during the set, the producer took his audience on an auditory journey that was equal parts dynamic, ominous, and exciting.
By far the most impressive aspect of Hopkins’ set was the way in which he built up suspense. The producer drifted even further away from the influence of popular electronic music by ignoring the buildup/bass drop formula that has become so widespread in the scene. Instead, Hopkins chose to experiment with volume control, tempo, and key changes to create the drastic sonic shifts throughout his set. At times he let the mix drift into calm, ambient music territory with sweet melodies and tinkering rhythms. Other times, he mixed in elements of deep techno and its dark, pulsating beats.
This might sound like a lot of musical territory to cover in one show, but Hopkins proved he has a way with reading the audience and knowing what they want, even if they don’t know it themselves. It was as though he could tell exactly when the crowd was getting comfortable with the set’s direction, triggering the producer to introduce a completely new sonic layer to the audience. He might not have spoken with the crowd at all during the performance, but Hopkins was definitely in tune with them.
Hopkins is wrapping up his North American tour with a string of west coast dates right now before heading off to Australia and Europe for a bit. But don’t fret if you missed him this time around; his boundary-pushing electronic music and minimalist live set will be back in America soon enough. In the meantime, check out his music online.