Review: Now Wave Fifth Birthday w/ Jon Hopkins @ Gorilla

Read Andrew Williams' review of Jon Hopkins, as he is truly entranced by the off kilter electronics of this assuming producer.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 30th Sep 2013

Now Wave celebrated its fifth birthday with a headline show from electronic producer Jon Hopkins at Gorilla. Situated under the railway arches beneath Oxford Road Station, the venue has the feel of a room in a subterranean electricity generator, perfect for the evening that lay ahead of us. Hopkins was in town to play an Audio Visual (AV) set with tracks from his acclaimed Mercury nominated record Immunity, support coming from Samaris and Lone.

Leading Manchester based promoters Now Wave are ahead of the game, booking cutting edge names to assemble some of the most exciting line ups ever held in the city. This year alone they have hosted American RnB singer How To Dress Well, International British artist James Blake, local up and coming band Embers and with Illinois export Willis Earl Beal soon to grace the Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, this is just a taste of the eclectic range of acclaimed artists they have shipped in.

Their 5th Birthday event was no different. Londoner Jon Hopkins has previously worked along side Brian Eno, King Creosote and more recently with Purity Ring with whom he has a new single “Breathe This Air”, this booking shows Now Wave still mean business and are able to attract established names.

The evening on started with Icelandic act Samaris, an electronica outfit from Reykjavik. Their set was low key, the beats laid down echoing (metaphorically and literally) the early 2000’s UK dub scene. The swooning vocals were reminiscent of Bat for Lashes and complimented the clarinet sounds, ensuring that the room was filled with an easy but deeply emotive vibe. Merging musical genres and eras, and having the ability to mix woodwind, vocals and electronic production, they an interesting outfit to look out for.

Next up was Manchester based DJ / producer Lone who opted not play from the stage, instead situated high above the crowd in a window between about a hundred electricity generators. After a quick intro, he dropped into deliciously crunchy grooves, for over an hour laying down some upbeat analogue rhythms and beats crossing from industrial techno to Chicago house.

His music would have been more suited at 4am in the morning after the audience had sipped a few more drinks. Still… it did the trick as the room was warmed up sufficiently in time for the headliner’s imminent landing.
After a five minute breather, classically trained musician, pianist and producer Hopkins took it upon himself to delve straight into an hour of rapturous electronic tracks from his latest album Immunity and extensive back catalogue.

To begin, the visual eye candy behind the artist (designed by Dan Tombs) showed microscopic cells and bubbles which loosely related with his album subject. The visual aspect of the show was inevitably dwarfed by the experience of the cleverly structured noise produced by Hopkins.

A short time into his set ‘Open Eye Signal’ was unleashed emphatically, currently this writer’s track of the year on account of its beautifully crafted depths and intricacies. Produced on the Korg-MS-20, it was Immunity’s lead single and the one which Hopkins said “lead the way for the entire album”. It was a role mirrored at the show, the dance floor suddenly immersed in the otherworldly euphoria of the album for the first time.

It formed the basis of truly special live performance from Hopkins, showcasing the diverse range of electronic productions in his repertoire. Before the heavy finale we had time for his take on Coldplay’s life in Technicolor, as the bunker was filled with the rising euphoric sounds of “Light through the Veins” (Hopkins helped produce their album Viva La Vida after an introduction to the band by Eno).

During the final ten minutes in Gorrila we were subjected to a massive Industrial assault, only stopping for a technical fault; luckily it was only brief before he continued to shake the foundations with his loud offbeat factory techno.

Hopkins uses an Ableton [Live] system when playing live shows, with his tracks loaded and a MIDI keyboard to trigger loops. He confesses it is not a complex system due to his need to travel alone whilst on tour. The man performed brilliantly, tapping on his KOASS Pads as If they were electronic bongos, awkwardly taking in the applause between tracks.

An unassuming hero, finishing his electronic sermon with his name on the screen behind. Who could forget the name Jon Hopkins after a performance like that? It's not very often a live/DJ performance straddles so effectively between the deep, the organic and the industrial whilst engrossing the audience. His imaginative breakdowns were just incredible, what a show and what a way to celebrate with Now Wave.

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