Jon Hopkins – Music For Psychedelic Therapy
Jon Hopkins is making new age wellness music. To be honest, there’s really no better way to describe the sort of music that the English techno producer has specifically formulated to guide the listener through a psychedelic trip. Immersive, amorphous and (sometimes) overwhelming pieces of ambient, perhaps? The concept is novel, and pretty on trend for what is arguably the beginning of a psychedelic revolution in culture and psychology, with the ‘guided trip’ becoming an increasingly more popular form of self-help and path of enlightenment on the road to living your best life. Opening with Welcome (one of three tracks featuring New Age meditative artist 7RAYS), the resonance of finger cymbals dance with wonky synth modulations and sunny chimes begin an experience into a chilled out journey inward toward your higher self. While it may seem left-field, this sort of ambient dreamscape is not alien to Hopkins. 2018’s acclaimed Singularity was full of arresting and striking techno synth storms, walls of noise that triggered an unsettling disquiet by way of their sheer magnitude. This is sort of the antithesis to that; the same theory, but a different aim. The ambience here is still impossibly full and teaming with various sonic textures and ideas in the same way as Singularity, but the sounds here are programmed toward introspection and higher consciousness. Where Singularity was music about the experience of psychedelics, this is music that informs the experience.
Unsurprisingly, Hopkins often turns to the natural world for his own guidance. Nature sounds in the way of bird calls and rainfall warp and dissolve into thrumming abstraction, much in the same way the world around you goes fuzzy then explodes in unseen frequencies on LSD or enough psilocybin. Much of these natural soundscapes are inspired by Hopkins’s expeditions into the rainforests of Ecuador. It was here where he found himself on the mission to inspire his soundtrack to tripping, and the field recordings of that expedition form the blueprint for the album’s compositions. Tayos Caves, Ecuador i-iii are three long format tracks designed to be experienced as one epic, 20 minute immersive journey. Beginning with the rain soaked and bird chorus filled Tayos Caves, Ecuador i, the journey moves into cavernous and cosmic ambient drones before emerging on the other side of the chasm, this time surrounded by singing cicadas that conjure images of wet, sun mottled vegetation in the heat of an Amazonian afternoon. Then there’s the Sit Around The Fire, which feels destined to become the sound of savasana for LuluLemon clad yoga influencers across the globe. Here, Hopkins swirls a reflective piano ballad around a recording of Ram Dass guiding you through lightwork and love based meditation on what is the most schlocky track on Music For Psychedelic Therapy.
Others, like the painfully New Age titled Love Flows Over Us In Prismatic Waves, look toward the otherworldly. This track draws the veil between this dimension and next with modulating, crystalline flutter and slowly blinking chimes of light. It’s gorgeous and meditative, and ends with more bird sounds that reveal themselves like an epiphany from the beyond the spirit world. This flows into Deep In The Glowing Heart, which is an exercise in intensity. Like travelling through the layers of flesh, muscle and capillaries to the very core of a beating heart only to find a portal into another universe, the track expands and releases with a sense of tension that is designed to engulf you. The thought of experiencing this while tripping is a little terrifying, but then that’s the entire point here isn’t it? This is music designed with function in mind, and in this case the function is to challenge your psyche into new levels of existence. It’s a lofty endeavour that begs the question of just how one even begins to guide a potential out of body experience.
Hopkins’s thesis lies in the indistinct; whereas similar endeavours from other artists in the past have explored polyrhythms and a saturated use of delay (there’s a case to be made for psych-rock being made to get high to just as much as it’s made about being high), Hopkins grounds his psych-explorations in structureless voids and liminal spaces. The actual experience of getting high is arguably entirely subjective; attempting to predict how one might respond to the stimuli around them while tripping is a game of assumption. Hopkins’s approach does hold some weight in it’s clear influence from the immersive and open-ended realm of meditation soundtracks, yet often feels as though he is pushing for some sort of preternatural breakthrough or to induce astral projection. Yet this open ended quality also means that Music For Psychedelic Therapy feels accessible beyond its primary function, lending itself to a Kundalini class just as well as it would to an ayahuasca retreat.
Listen to an excerpt from Music For Psychedelic Therapy below.
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