Lately I’ve been approaching ambient electro records with a degree of trepidation, as most of them fall short from a combination of too much technical wizardry and not enough compositional talent. Londoner Jon Hopkins has just been burdened with the weight of reconverting this deserter with his third full length Insides, even though I’ll admit my skepticism held its breath a little, considering the comparisons he’s earned to the likes of Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and FourTet.
As intelligent dance music goes Insides falls under the instrumental chill-out umbrella, very compositional at times with either a lone piano or one played over gentle loops, and more experimental drone/noise with vibrating skipped beats. “Wire” and “Light Through the Veins” from the opening half of the album are very lovely, if not conventional within the genre they find themselves in, but “Vessel” and title track “Insides” from the same side are not half as charming with their overuse of a horrible, noisy industrial drill and ker-plunk beat that would sound at home on the borg cube. There’s a place for everything in the music world and I would by no means abolish this slowcore drilling beat style should I ever take my place on the throne of kingdom music, but my problem with it is that once you’ve heard it once (which I have on plenty of laptop-made electronic nothings before) you’ve heard it a million times…and it never changes!
Getting back to the record, and quickly mentioning the second half as almost a carbon copy of the first with the same melange of atmospheric, forgettable piano-led meditation music and tiresome progressive beat experiments, this record only increases my annoyance with the amount of forgettable uncreative electronic nonsense being produced at the moment under the various guises of `Progressive Electro,’ `Ambient Techno, even `Downtempo,’ made to sound spacy, when really, it’s just some bank music with a programmed beat and laptop experiments that I doubt even the composer could like.
I don’t want to go as far as to call this music dishonest because it’s still music and someone will find a home for it, I’m sure, but electronic composers like Jon Hopkins should take a step back from their introverted software indulgences and see the big picture of their music. I remain stringent in my skepticism of more flat electronic pastiches, when once I would have been one of its biggest champions.